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O YEARS 
UNDER THE SEA 



WILLIAMSON 



f!lOJ^k\Afi(KMrL 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER 
THE SEA 




"The Helmet Was Lifted and I Told My Story 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER 
THE SEA 



By 
J. E. WILLIAMSON 



ILLUSTRATED 



BOSTON 

RALPH T. HALE ©• COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



COPYRIGHT I936, BY 

J. E. WILLIAMSON 



All rights reserved — no part of this book may be reproduced in any form 

without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer 

who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written 

for inclusion in a magazine or newspaper. 



First printing, March 1936 
Second printing, June 1936 
Third printing, November 1938 
Fourth Printing October 1944. 



THIS BOOK HAS BEEN MANUFACTURED IN 
ACCORDANCE WITH THE RECOMMENDATIONS 
OF THE WAR PRODUCTION BOARD IN THE 
INTEREST OF THE CONSERVATION OF PAPER 
AND OTHER IMPORTANT WAR MATERIALS. 



PIUNTEU IN THK UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
H\ THE POLYGKAPHIC COMPANY OPAMEKICA.N.'i . 



TO 

ALONZO FOREST CATHEY 

AND 

THOMAS SOMERVILLE SOUTHGATE 



CONTENTS 



INTRODUCTION .... 

CHAPTER 

I THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

II BENEATH TROPTC SEAS . 

III A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER . 

IV ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN . 
V DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS . 

VI UNDER PRESSURE 

VII PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO . 

VIII THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

IX MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

X MAKING JULES VERNE'S DREAM COME TRUE 

XI A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

XII THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

XIII THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

XIV SHARKS 

XV SUCKER-FISH .... 

XVI EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

XVII WET WINDS .... 

vii 



PAGE 

15 

29 

46 

63 
79 
92 

103 

118 
132 

147 
162 

170 

181 
191 

225 
242 
251 

277 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



THE AUTHOR Frontispiece 

PAGE 

"the tube made easy access to the sea floor" — 
the williamson submarine tube in operation . 32 

"i had succeeded!" — the first undersea photograph 
ever taken 35 

"WHICH, COMPLETE WITH ITS GREAT GLASS WINDOWS, 
WOULD WEIGH NEARLY FOUR TONS" — THE PHOTO- 
SPHERE DESIGNED BY THE AUTHOR 40 

"DOWN AFTER THEM CAME THE BOYS" — NATIVES DIVING 

FOR COINS 49 

FROM ONE OF WILLIAMSON'S EARLY UNDERSEA FILMS 

THE HEROINE VISITS THE WRECK OF A SHIP ... 53 

"PERHAPS . . . THE REMAINS OF SOME OLD SHIP OF SPAIN" 

IN DAVY JONES'S LOCKER 56 

"A WELCOME ADDITION TO OUR ROGUES' GALLERY OF 
FISHES" — "EQUUS PUNCTATUS" (SPOTTED HORSE) WITH 
HIS UNIQUE FLAGSTAFF 62 

"GRASPING THE LONG-BLADED KNIFE IN HIS TEETH, HE 

DIVED" — SHARK HUNTER OUT AFTER BIG GAME . . 66 

"THE DIVER DROVE HIS KNIFE UP TO THE HILT INTO HIS 
ENEMY" — AN ACTUAL PICTURE OF A SHARK FIGHT 
TAKEN FROM THE PHOTOSPHERE 68 

A JACK FLASHES THROUGH WAVING GORGONIAS AND 

CORAL HEADS 76 

"THAT GIANT MORAY, WITH POISONOUS TEETH CAPABLE 

OF SHEARING OFF A MAN'S LEG" 80 

ix 



"IT SEEMS AS IF HE IS COMING RIGHT IN!" — A SMALL RAY 

TRYING TO AVOID A SHARK 83 

"CAUGHT AND DRAWN INTO THE QUICKSAND" THE 

RESCUE OF A DIVER 86 

"HE IS FIGHTING HIMSELF IN THE LOOKING-GLASS" — A 
PARROT FISH ATTACKING THE WINDOW OF THE PHOTO- 
SPHERE 90 

"IF A FOUR-FOOT OCTOPUS IS CAPABLE OF SUCH A 

FIGHT ..." . . . 96 

THE AUTHOR AT WORK IN A CORAL GARDEN . . . . IO4 

"IT IS A TOPSY-TURVY WORLD, THIS REALM OF A DIVER" 

AN UNDERSEAS EXPLORER INVESTIGATES AN OLD WRECK 109 

THREE DIVERS JACK GARDNER, THE AUTHOR AND FRANK 

CRILLEY I24 

"SHE WAS WELL OVER ONE HUNDRED FEET IN LENGTH" 

CAPTAIN NEMO'S "NAUTILUS" IN "20,000 LEAGUES 
UNDER THE SEA" 130 

"THEY WOULD WANDER AWAY ON EXCURSIONS OF THEIR 

OWN" DIVERS IN SELF-CONTAINED HELMETS . . . I40 

"THE BEARERS APPROACHED" — THE FUNERAL PROCESSION 

FROM "20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA" . ... I42 

"LEAVING THE GLADE DESERTED" — CAPTAIN NEMO'S 

GRAVEYARD I45 

"A VOLCANO SEEMED TO BURST INTO ERUPTION" — THE 

EXPLOSION WHICH WAS ALMOST TRAGIC . . . . 151 

BRAIN CORAL OUT OF WHICH IS GROWING A STINGING 

GORGONIA 156 

"WHERE THE HUGE, LOATHSOME OCTOPUS MIGHT LIE IN 

WAIT" — A LOVELY SETTING FOR HORRIBLE TRAGEDY . 1 64 

"THE FORMIDABLE BEAK WAS OPEN ABOVE ITS VICTIM" 
— WILLIAMSON'S OCTOPUS IN AN EXCITING BATTLE 
WITH A DIVER l66 

X 



"I PLACED THE CONTROLS INSIDE THE HEAD OF THE 

OCTOPUS" THE MECHANICS OF THE WILLIAMSON 

OCTOPUS 174 

"THE SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD" — THE OCTOPUS AT 

REST, AFTER A HARD DAY'S WORK I78 

CINDERELLA EXPLORING IN A DIM LAND WHERE THE TREES 

ARE TURNED TO STONE 188 

"SHE HAD STOPPED BY A HUGE BRAIN CORAL" THE "MER- 
MAID" WHO PLAYED THE LEAD IN THE MYSTERIOUS 
ISLAND 196 

CAMP KANOPENER 198 

A DIVER AND A "MERMAID" MEET IN AN UNDERSEA GARDEN 206 

THE AUTHOR DESCENDING THE TUBE WITH HIS LITTLE 

DAUGHTER, "CAPTAIN" SYLVIA 21 5 

"DETERMINED TO ENTER INTO THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE 
MAN-EATING SHARK . . ." — THE TIGER OF THE DEEP IN 
HIS NATIVE HAUNTS 224 

"I HAVE FOUND THE SHARK TO BE A CUNNING, SHIFTY 

ANTAGONIST" A MAN-EATER HOOKED BUT NOT YET 

CONQUERED 229 

"I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT A SHARK DOES NOT HAVE TO 

TURN OVER TO BITE" 231 

SHARK BAIT A GIANT RAY AND A NATIVE DIVER . . . 237 

"THEY HOLD ON WITH BULL-DOG TENACITY" — SUCKER 
FISH (REMORA) STICKING TO THE PECTORAL FINS OF A 
SHARK 243 

"INTO THE MYSTERIOUS REGION OF THE ocean's DEPTHS 

. . ." DEEP SEA FERNS AND BRAIN CORAL MAKE 

EXQUISITE DESIGNS 250 

THE "JULES VERNE," MOTHER-BOAT OF THE WILLIAMSON 

TUBE 254 

XI 



"full diving suits and equipment were needed" — 
divers at work in rock coral 256 

"in this paradise, as though painted on a back-cloth 

. . ." this photograph appears on the new baha- 

man air mail stamp 258 

"the wee 'captain' was all dressed up for the occa- 
sion" — inside the "jules verne" the williamson 
family prepares to descend 264 

"she took her first look into the strange world 
of fishes" — convict fish, sergent majors, and 
schoolmasters on parade . 266 

the ocean current bends the branches of undersea 
coral trees 278 

"i had been making plans for lifting the huge coral 
trees" — a diver in the shade of an overhanging 

PALMATE 288 

"A MORE GEORGEOUS CREATION WAS SPREAD OUT BEFORE 

ME" — A GOLDEN YELLOW PALMATE CORAL TREE . . 292 

"ONE BIG GROUPER ADVANCED TOWARD ME'' .... 296 

"TRIUMPHANTLY WE HAULED IT ABOVE HIGH-WATER 
MARK" — THE LARGEST SPECIMEN OF CORAL EVER 
TAKEN FROM THE SEA-BED 300 

THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN — A NATIVE DIVER "DOFFS HIS 
HAT" AS HE SALUTES MRS. WILLIAMSON AND CAPTAIN' 
SYLVIA 307 

"AS COMFORTABLE AS THE FISH SEEMED TO BE OUTSIDE 

OUR WINDOW" A CORAL HEAD, WAVING SEA-PLUMES 

AND PURPLE GORGONIAS 310 

"WATCHING THE FUN IN THE FISHY ARENA . . ." GOLDEN 

GRUNTS AND YELLOW-TAILED GOATFISH . . . . 312 

THE AUTHOR WITH HIS NATIVE DIVERS — WARD, JOE, 

BROWN, SKIN, JAMAICA AND CINDERELLA . . . . 316 

ROCKED IN THE CRADLE OF THE DEEP 318 

xii 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER 
THE SEA 



INTRODUCTION 

MY father's people came from Scotland and it was 
here that he was born. John Williamson, his 
father, was the youngest of nine brothers, all six-footers 
and shipbuilders. John married Agnes Bell at Annan, 
Scotland, and later they moved down to the sea and 
ships at Liverpool, the saltiest of seaports, bringing 
with them Charles, their tiniest infant, who was to 
become my seafaring father. 

On the day I was born my father was navigating his 
ship under double reef topsails around the tip of Cape 
Horn. Here near the bottom of the world and sur- 
rounded by mountainous seas, he was thousands of 
miles away from home, yet only on the first leg of a 
voyage. In those days months, even years, might pass 
before a sailor could make his home port again. In fact 
I was nearly three years old before my father cast his 
seafaring eye on the trim of my rigging. 

I remember hazily the day he breezed into our home 
at Liverpool bringing with him the tang of the sea. 
The house seemed crowded when he arrived. Every- 
one stood at attention. I don't think he more than 
glanced at me for he carried in with him his latest 
invention. I might be my mother's important new 

15 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

infant, but he had brought home a baby of his own. 
No one had ever seen the like of it. It might have been 
a model for a perpetual motion machine. But, lo and 
behold, when he opened it up, it was a perfect folding 
baby carriage, a collapsible perambulator. 

Then I began to travel, perambulated about the busy 
port. Whether the main purpose of this first trip con- 
ducted by my inventor father was to exhibit his off- 
spring or his invention, it didn't matter. It was the 
beginning of wondrous days for me. Each time my 
father was home he would take me down to the docks 
where I could sniff delightedly at the spicy odours of 
strange cargoes and the smell of tar and ropes, gaze in 
awe and wonder at the stately sailing ships, their lofty 
spars crossed with great yard-arms, and hear the rattle 
and whine of tackle and the laughter of jolly sailors as 
they met along the water front. 

But these excursion days were always short lived. 
My father had to be off to sea again. Our family life 
revolved about his sailings and the happy days when we 
could welcome him home again. Each time he returned 
he brought with him some new creation of his mind 
and hands. 

One day he returned with an idea of great importance. 
There was a gathering of the clans at our home, and 
that night they repaired to the lawn where my father 
was to demonstrate his latest invention. The idea of it 
had come to him while sailing through the foggy banks 

16 



INTRODUCTION 

of Newfoundland, eyes strained to avoid the fishing 
craft that bobbed about with winking red and green 
lights. These dancing gleams had been his inspiration 
and from them he had worked out a signal code. 

Now with whispered prophecies and high hopes, 
the demonstration began, my father operating the 
controls. Red, green and white lights blinked through 
the darkness at the foot of the lawn, spelling out words. 
The messages were easily understood. It was a valuable 
invention and destined to be used the world over. 
There was much enthusiasm and my uncles wanted to 
finance the project and have it patented at once. But 
my father had other ideas and took the invention back 
to sea with him, probably to work on it and improve it. 

Later, in New York, he took his model and the 
fully outlined plans for its development to the office of 
a patent agent, and requested him to get out a patent 
on the device. Then he went off to sea again. Many 
months later, upon his return to New York, he dashed 
up to the office where he had left his invention, but 
there was no sign of the man with whom he had 
left it. He had disappeared completely and some other 
business concern was occupying his quarters. No one 
knew anything about him. To add to the bewilder- 
ment of the inventor he picked up a scientific journal 
and was startled to read that someone in France had 
taken out i patent on the identical device he had sub- 
mitted, alike in every detail to his. Then his fighting 

x 7 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

blood was aroused. He left his ship to search for the 
man who had perpetrated this crime, intent upon 
committing murder if he ever found the missing pur- 
veyor of patents whom he firmly believed had stolen 
his ideas. 

However, before there were serious consequences, 
the inventor cooled down, and in the meantime had 
decided to live on shore. The next thing we learned 
was that he was building a hotel and a dam up in the 
mountains of Vermont. The project was nearing 
completion when my mother, sister, brother and myself 
left Liverpool for America. 

We got to Vermont for a family reunion just the day 
before the opening of the hotel. It was then that I got 
my first real good look at the captain in action. I had 
heard of his great ability but was still a bit sceptical in 
my nine-year-old way of minking. My mother had 
shown me newspaper notices concerning an enormous 
flagpole he had erected near the hotel. My father had 
searched the Vermont woods for its loftiest pine-tree. 
Farmers and natives had come from miles around to 
see how he would put this monster log upright in a 
hole. So I immediately checked up on this flagpole, 
and there it was upright, as straight as a die, towering 
high in the air, white and shining. And not only that, 
but on top of it was a topmast, almost as long as the 
flagpole itself. On the ground was the weather vane, 
filigreed out of brass and fully five feet long, a perfect 

18 



INTRODUCTION 

reproduction of a mountain trout. When my father 
put this glittering fish in place at the top of the topmast, 
slid down the ropes true sailor fashion, and sent up the 
fluttering stars and stripes amid the cheers of the 
assembled throng, he made his first big hit with me. 

The hotel project was a big success and my father's 
contract was up. He had been asked to run the hotel, 
but this was far too tame an occupation for him. 
Already he was longing again to be off and in a few 
days he was gone, heading south. He was soon in the 
business of ships again, this time at the seaports of 
Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia, twin Liverpools 
where the shipping of the world put in for trade. 
Combining his training in shipbuilding with his sea- 
faring experience, my father was now in the business 
of fitting ships for grain and cattle. So my mother 
gathered up the trailing family and arrived at our new 
home in Virginia. "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" 
had been my mother's favourite song in England. 
I remembered it as a lullaby, and here we were in the 
old Virginia of the song. My mother was busy again 
as a home-maker. If she had any extra talents she had 
no time to develop them, as her days were full in 
looking after my father, two sons and a daughter, 
already showing marked signs of being jibs off the old 
mainsail. 

These were boom days in the business of grain and 
cattle shipping. Ships and more ships came trailing into 

19 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the Virginia ports to carry out their bulging cargoes. 
Before the grain could be poured from the great ele- 
vators into the ships, the vessels must be prepared for it, 
first by dividing the holds into compartments with 
heavily-braced partitions. Then in the four corners of 
the between-decks wing feeders were built to feed 
grain into the lower holds as the cargo of grain settled 
when the ship laboured in the open sea. If this work of 
fitting was not well done, the grain would start moving, 
sometimes resulting in the tragic loss of the ship, which 
would turn completely over in a storm. 

In fitting a ship for cattle the danger was not quite 
so serious, for the cattle were carried mainly on deck 
and in stalls. Those were trying times for the transfer 
of cattle. Often the entire load would be carried away 
in a gale, stalls, cattle and everything slipping off into 
the sea. When this happened it was time for them to 
go. The ship had reached the limit of its ability to hold 
such a deck load, and had to disgorge. 

One day a queen of the sea came sailing into port 
like a great white butterfly with a hundred square 
wings. It was a full-rigged ship and painted pure white 
from stem to stern. To add to the excitement I found 
that the captain of the ship was an old sea friend of 
my father. 

At our home at night I heard them recounting their 
glamorous days at sea. They told of the era of sailing 
ships — white wings that never grew weary — days when 

20 



INTRODUCTION 

a man's credentials for supremacy on shipboard were 
held in his two horny fists, and to get to the top he had 
to be able to lick every man under him, and be ready at 
any time to prove that he could. I listened as they told 
of battling with the elements, marine and human, of 
gales and shipwrecks, of months at sea when death and 
disease walked the decks, of the strain of long voyages 
and mutiny. Their recollections ran the gamut from 
die heat of the tropics to the bitter cold of the regions 
of ice where these two as youngsters had leaned over 
the yard-arms and with long poles had beat the ice 
from die sails as the sleet and rain fell. I could imagine 
the cutting pain of the cold and the hardships endured 
as a matter of course by the hardy men of the sea. 

Suddenly the captain of the great white ship nearly 
took my breath away when he asked my father if he 
would allow me to go to sea with him. He was bound 
for Spain with a full cargo of oak staves for the barrels 
used in the wineries there. I had watched for days 
while they had loaded these staves. The smell of the 
wood and the atmosphere of the ship with its fluttering 
white sails had held me entranced, and now to diink of 
a voyage on this ship seemed almost too good to be 
true. It was an anxious moment for me as my father 
pondered the question of my going to sea. Then he 
smiled and thanked the captain for the offer. From that 
moment on I was getting ready to go, and fairly walking 
on air. Finally the loading of the ship was completed 

21 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

and the hatches were battened down. My clothes were 
now in a bundle as I prepared my good-bye speech, 
rehearsing it carefully so it would be short and sweet. 
And then, boy fashion, I began to be sorry about leaving 
home, but this was too big a chance to miss. I said 
good-bye to my mother with difficulty and went to 
my father who cut short my farewell remarks with a 
firm, final statement, "You're not going." And that 
was all there was to it. I was too crushed to say any- 
thing. All I could do was go down to the dock and 
watch my dream ship sail majestically out of the port. 
Leaning to the breeze its billowing sails were straining 
with the wind. Finally it faded from view as the scene 
was dimmed to my tear-filled eyes. I shall always 
remember that white-winged ship. Out through the 
Virginia capes it sailed to disappear for ever, with its 
gallant captain and crew. What happened to the ship 
no one ever knew. Somewhere out in the reaches of 
the ocean, the sea had swallowed it up. 

To keep me from dreaming of deep sea voyages, my 
father kept me always at work. If I was not to go to 
sea, I was going to get the discipline of the sea, at home. 

One day he told me to attend to a job connected 
with his barges, for he expected two ships in for fitting. 
I had every intention of carrying out his instructions to 
the letter, perhaps a bit later than he expected, but, 
lured by the thought of my shotgun and dog, off I 
went to the woods nearby. A few hours later I was 

22 



INTRODUCTION 

back and had placed in the kitchen a pair of rabbits 
and a bird or so. I was breezily on my way through 
the house when I came to a screen door between two 
of the rooms. I had just reached for the knob when 
directly on the other side of the screen I saw the im- 
mobile figure of my father. He was dressed for the 
street, immaculate and sartorially correct in pin-striped 
trousers and with a senatorial cutaway draping his 
enormous chest. 

His question and my answer were quickly exchanged. 
Nothing unusual might have happened, had I not 
accompanied my reply with a misplaced grin. Then 
something shot out toward my head. I saw stars, lots 
of 'em. Had I been kicked by a mule ? I was spinning 
across the room. Now my vision was clearing. I was 
down on the floor. I could see my father still standing 
behind the door, though a hole in the screen marked 
the spot where his ponderous fist had shot through. 
There was no great harm done except to the door, 
and we both made our exits in opposite directions. 
Later, bucksaw in hand, I was busy in the woodshed 
when my father's hand was laid on my shoulder with, 
"I'm sorry, my son." I had nothing to say. It was the 
first time in my life that he had ever struck or hurt me. 
I took the apology with the blow. 

So I fell in with his rule always to keep busy with at 
least two jobs awaiting in the offing. At night I received 
training in music and a home course in engineering. 

23 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

In addition to these studies, I also graduated from high 
school. 

During all free hours I had plenty of Work to do in 
the hectic enterprise of ship fitting. Work on several 
ships at once meant day and night labour, as the ships 
were held up in the meantime. There could be no 
let-up in our work and the excitement of it reached 
into the home. There was no such thing as a regular 
time for meals. There were comings and goings and 
eating at all hours. However, I learned one thing 
against my father's wishes, and that was occasionally to 
go on working for forty-eight hours at a stretch. If 
he caught me at it he sent me home, or thought he did, 
for I would go to some other ship and get to work 
again. 

This was excitement to my liking. Men working 
and shouting on the decks and in the holds of the ships. 
Often an avalanche of grain would come pouring in 
before we had finished the wing feeders in the between- 
decks, and that meant the thrill of desperate work to 
finish and get out of the holds, sweat pouring from us, 
and every man wearing a large damp sponge tied over 
his mouth with a bandana handkerchief to help him 
breathe in the heavy dust. But there was the sport of 
it, the race to finish, to complete the one job and go 
on to the next. To me it was a thrill to be in the maze 
of ships' holds and the traffic of che docks. If the old 
man wanted work, I would give it to him and like it. 

24 



INTRODUCTION 

When I was sixteen years old it was decided that I 
should enter the big shipyards at Newport News. 
I was duly entered as apprentice in the department of 
marine draughtsmen. Here I could learn everything 
I did not already know about ships. Get acquainted 
with every rivet and gadget from truck to keel, of 
battleships, cruisers and torpedo boats and every other 
sort of a ship right down through the line to the sea- 
roving tramp. 

Up to this time drawing was as simple to me as 
breathing. I had walked through all of it in my school 
work with ease, for I had learned to think in terms of 
pictures. I found it much the easiest way. Yet the stern 
formality of the drafting board and the tedious details 
of this new work did not represent as free and un- 
trammelled an art as I would have wished, but I dug 
into it, nevertheless. Later when my period for work 
in the yards came around, and I was sent to the great 
steel hulls, I began to get restless, for in the meantime 
I had visited machine shops, pattern shops, moulding 
lofts, the foundries and seen great castings made. I had 
been to these places where the draughtsmen's blue 
prints were carefully read and made to come true. 
The one thing that took my eye and caught my fancy 
was pattern making — the art of creating in wood from 
the blue print, everything from ship's engines to 
propeller blades, all later to be cast in iron, brass and 
steel. That was just to my liking. If I could get into 

25 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

this kind of work it would be the next thing to heaven, 
so I begged for a transfer and completed my five years' 
course at the shipyard in the pattern making department. 

Then I decided to strike out for myself. The lure of 
the west was calling me, and I answered. My adven- 
tures that followed included a burnt cork era in this 
wild oats period. I toured as an end man with a 
minstrel show. On top of my black-face experience 
I made an important decision. I would be a newspaper 
man — a cartoonist on a big city newspaper. And of 
all the things I had decided to do this was the toughest 
of all to accomplish. 

My first step was to enter Reed's School of Art in 
Denver, Colorado. The first night I reported for study 
at the school, I found myself in the company of about 
two dozen young men and girls, in the ante-room 
preparing for class. They wanted to know if I had 
paper. I said "No," and they supplied me with some. 
They also fixed me up with charcoal and other supplies 
and a smock which made me feel quite the artist. In 
the easel-filled drawing hall we prepared to sketch. 
Out came a model, in the nude, and the drawing com- 
menced. I was more interested in the model than the 
drawing. The room was chilly and so was the model 
who, during the rest periods, would step down from 
the platform and poke up the fire in die stove. After 
a half-hour of sketching I had outlined my study when 
Reed, the master, came in. When he got around to me 

26 



INTRODUCTION 

on his tour of inspection he gave me a quizzical look, 
but taking my charcoal he showed me how to throw in 
the shadows of my drawing more boldly, and asked me 
to see him afterwards. I had made a glaring error in 
coming to the life class, commencing at the top of the 
ladder, when I should have come in on a night when 
they were working en still life studies and started in at 
the bottom. Accordingly I entered the still life class, 
but in a few weeks I had mopped up everything and 
got back into the life class, much to the consternation 
of two girl artists who had been trying for a year or 
more to get out of still life. I liked this art business, 
and I enjoyed the wonder city I was living in, a mile 
above the sea, but at last I succumbed to the lure of the 
sea level and the smell of the salt sea marshes. So one 
day I folded up my kit and carried it back to old 
Virginia. 

I was back east now and looking for a newspaper 
job. One day I cartooned a seven-act Keith vaudeville 
show and took the pictures to a local paper. The next 
day I was on the staff. I had plenty of ideas, but to 
perfect my treatment — master all the tricks of the pen 
and brush, for I was determined to be as good as the 
best — proved a rocky road to travel. It carried me on 
explorations through every department of a newspaper. 
I studied engraving with its wet plates, line cuts, half 
tones and colour reproductions all the way from 
Norfolk to Boston, and back again. I also did some 

27 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

reporting and worked for a year on one paper as staff 
photographer, attending art school when possible. 
The routine was easy but reaching the high point of 
perfection was not. The only remedy I knew was to 
put in heartless hours. Twenty hours a day was the 
usual thing, but it was just to my liking. There was 
little talking to be done, just sketching, drawing, photo- 
graphing and writing. The rush and clatter of news- 
paper offices gradually became home to me. Often 
when through for the day I figured that the few hours 
for sleep might just as well be spent at the office, and 
would wake up with my feet under the drawing board. 
If trying hard would bring perfection, I was slowly, if 
not surely, on my way somewhere in that direction 
when my story opens. 



28 



Chapter I 

THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

A NEWSPAPER mail on the hunt for news might 
best describe my state of being as I stepped, one 
day, into a magic world that later became a reality. 
It happened in the old seaport of Norfolk, Virginia. 
I had strolled down a narrow street with the sea and 
ships at its end. Long, mysterious shadows filled the 
space between the ancient buildings looming ghostly 
and unreal against the glow of the setting sun. 
Silence reigned. The place seemed utterly deserted 
and forgotten. Above the crooked roofs and sag- 
ging chimneys was a fathomless green sky, and a 
strange sensation of standing on the bottom of the sea 
among the ruins of some sunken city came to me. I 
knew it was visionary, but I had always been fascinated 
by the legend of the lost Atlantis, and by the tales of 
known sunken cities of Yucatan and the submerged 
Port Royal in Jamaica. 

Standing there in the weird half-light of a dying 
day, I visualized these cities once peopled by humans 
and now the haunts of creatures of the sea. What 
wondrous stories they held! What astounding pictures 

29 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

they would present if photographed! Perhaps there 
would be wrecked ships, loaded treasure galleons, 
rotting in the silence of the once busy streets. I was 
seized with a sudden inspiration to make photographs 
of the world beneath the sea: that it had never been 
done, made the idea more alluring. It would be a 
real " scoop" for my paper, it would be a real adven- 
ture, as thrilling and exciting as the exploration of some 
unknown land. Fired with eagerness, the difficulties 
to be overcome never occurred to me at the time. 

In the life of a newspaper man, the guiding star — the 
lure that keeps him ever at his task — is the hope that he 
will come upon the one big story that will surpass all 
other adventures in his years of search for news. I 
believed I had the idea that was to produce that story. 
All regular assignments were forgotten. What were 
mere local colour and ordinary events compared to the 
mysterious happenings in the new strange world hidden 
from human eyes by the restless sea ? — a world peopled 
by strange monsters, by creatures bizarre, utterly in- 
credible and undreamed of. Always I had loved the 
sea. I had been born with the sea in my blood, inherited 
from seafaring ancestors. All my life I had lived near 
the sea, and always I had been filled with a curiosity, 
a longing to know what lay beneath its enigmatic 
surface. 

Now, with my mind crowded with the visionary 
scheme of taking pictures beneath the sea, my training 

30 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

in mechanics came to my aid. Yet I might never have 
achieved my goal, or even thought of the idea, had 
it not been for an invention which my father, Captain 
Charles Williamson, after a lifetime of seafaring, had 
devised. He was just perfecting his marvellous deep-sea 
salvaging device, a flexible metal tube capable of 
reaching great depths. The tube made easy access to 
the sea floor, and thick green-glass ports allowed the 
occupant of the work chamber at the bottom a some- 
what restricted view of undersea surroundings, enabling 
him to direct and operate giant grapples and arms when 
working on sunken wrecks. Herein lay the solution 
of my problem. The small observation chamber would 
have to be enlarged and equipped with clear-glass 
windows. There would also have to be banks of 
powerful electric lights to illuminate the depths beyond 
the reach of sunlight. I was confident that with these 
additions and alterations photographs of the ocean's 
floor and of the denizens of the deep would be possible. 
First, however, I would have to persuade my father to 
lend me his invention and allow me to alter it to suit 
my requirements. I thought this would be no easy 
matter, for he wa^s tuning up his apparatus in preparation 
for tests to be conducted by the United States Govern- 
ment, and my scheme would, I felt, appear to him as of 
little value or importance. However, I found that I had 
underrated my father's vision and his interest in my 
experiment. While in lending me his invention I am 

3* 



K2| 







THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

sure he felt very much like a mother who gives over 
her only child for a dangerous surgical operation, yet 
he agreed to let me go ahead. As a final act of con- 
fidence and co-operation, he piloted the outfit down the 
Elizabeth River and, at the opening of Chesapeake Bay, 
turned over to me his precious boats and undersea 
equipment. 

But all was not easy sailing. I had a regular job and 
the big story perforce must wait on the more prosaic 
but necessary tasks assigned by the Virginian Pilot, the 
morning newspaper of Norfolk, on whose staff I was 
photographer, artist, and often reporter to boot. 
Along with these duties, weeks of ceaseless work and 
experiment followed. From dawn until dark I laboured. 
I lay awake at night striving to solve problems that 
seemed insurmountable. Changes, alterations, and 
adjustments followed in endless succession. At last the 
day came when my experiments were to end. I 
descended in the tube, and, crouched in my photo- 
graphic chamber, spent the afternoon "at home" with 
the fishes thirty feet below the surface of the bay. 
Outside streaming banners of clear light pierced to the 
floor of the bay. Clumps of seaweed were revealed, 
swaying in the current, while in the dim, pale green 
distance bloomed inscrutable shadows, hinting of 
mysteries farther on. All about my chamber, undis- 
turbed by the strange invader of their realm, the fishes 
swam lazily through the green sea water or stopped 

33 



e tube made easy access to the sea floor" 
WILLIAMSON SUBMARINE TUBE IN OPERATION 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

to peer curiously into the glass of my window. Over 
and over again, I focussed my camera and pressed the 
shutter, filled with tense excitement, nerves a-tingle. 
Would my experiment be a success ? Would the plates 
actually record the scene before me, or should I find 
that all my hopes, my weeks of work had been for 
nothing ? 

I shall never forget the anxiety and suspense that 
attended the development of those first plates exposed 
beneath the sea. With bated breath I watched the 
silver emulsion darkening under the action of the 
chemicals in the little red light of my dark room, and 
I shall never forget the thrill of elation that swept over 
me when, little by little, the outline of the fishes 
appeared. Finally, the whole scene stood out clearly in 
all its pristine beauty. I had succeeded ! I had actually 
taken photographs beneath the sea. Best of all, I had 
made snapshots. Instantly I realized the tremendous 
importance of this achievement. If undersea photo- 
graphs could be made at the speed I had used, then 
motion pictures could be made under similar con- 
ditions. "Movies" meant magic even in 191 3, when 
the industry was yet in its infancy and had not yet 
learned to talk. 

I didn't sleep much that night. I was too busy plan- 
ning the future and too anxious to get to my editor 
and spring the news on him how motion pictures could 
be made under the sea. I wanted to submit to him my 

34 



'7 had succeeak 
THE FIRST UNDERSEA PHOTOGRAPH EVER TA| 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

plans for an expedition to the clear waters of the West 
Indies. 

The next day I placed the photographs and the data 
upon his desk, and stepped back to watch him pore 
over the details and grow into a strange mood of 
enthusiasm, confirming my growing convictions. Fin- 
ally he exploded, "Great, Williamson, you've got 
something !" In one hand he held my few small 
photographs, the like of which had never been seen 
before, and with a bang his other hand descended upon 
the pile of drawings and plans for my proposed expedi- 
tion to the floor of the ocean in the West Indies. "We'll 
have a full page on this for Sunday," continued the 
editor. "Rush your lay-out and I'll write the story 
myself. This is news! Do you realize you have made 
the first real undersea photographs in history? No 
one has ever gone beneath the sea with a camera and 
brought back a successful photograph of life in the 
depths." 

The first account of my undersea photography pub- 
lished in the Virginian Pilot aroused unbounded interest 
throughout the world. Pictures actually taken at the 
bottom of the sea seemed amazing, yet looking back on 
them now, those first submarine photographs appear 
woefully crude and inadequate. It was the feat rather 
than the pictures that counted, for I had actually 
accomplished the seemingly impossible: I had photo- 
graphed life on the floor of the ocean, and proved, to 

36 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

my own satisfaction at least, that motion pictures could 
be taken under the sea. 

Though the Pilot might have backed my proposed 
expedition, it never had the opportunity of doing so. 
Hundreds of letters and telegrams from metropolitan 
magazines and newspapers came in a flood as a result 
of that first account of successful under-ocean photo- 
graphy. Among them was a telegram inviting me to 
come to New York and exhibit my pictures at the 
First International Motion Picture Exposition, which 
was about to open at the Grand Central Palace. With 
my half-dozen four by five negatives, a few prints, 
and the papers with my plans in my pockets, I hurried 
to New York to accept the invitation. 

The Pilot's story had altered my life completely. 
I actually was in the movies and didn't know it! 

Oddly enough, I was not a professional photographer. 
Strictly speaking, I was a marine engineer, having taken 
a five-year course in that profession. For the past four 
years, however, I had been on the staff of several news- 
papers, including the Philadelphia Record where my 
sport cartoons had become a popular feature. But 
photography had always appealed to me, and when I 
resigned from the Record to accept a position on the 
Virginian Pilot it was a first stepping stone on the road 
toward a life work of which I had never dreamed ! 

In Manhattan I was met with enthusiastic greetings 
at the Exposition, and was allotted a booth for my 

37 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

pictures. Then, "Where is your exhibit?" inquired 
the manager. I drew the package of pictures and 
negatives out of my hip pocket. Not a very impressive 
exhibit nor one that seemed destined to fill a good-* 
sized booth, but I assured the manager that I would 
increase its size before the show opened on Monday. 
I hurried away to obtain enlargements of the pictures. 
However, I had forgotten that it was Saturday, that 
business ended at noon, and that photographers had 
locked their doors and departed for their holiday that 
hot week-end. Vainly I tried every studio from 
Forty-sixth Street to Herald Square, when I chanced 
upon the Rembrandt Studios, where a friendly German 
and his wife proved Good Samaritans and came gal- 
lantly to my rescue. 

Among the. enlargements made was one six feet wide, 
coloured with a sponge, which crowned the pictorial 
display that filled my booth at the opening of the 
Exposition. The picture of that patch of sea bottom with 
its fishes, just a few square yards of the vast ocean's 
floor, proved one of the greatest attractions of the show. 

A hectic week followed. Thousands of persons — 
professors, movie stars, financiers, producers, photo- 
graphers of still and motion pictures, cinema exhibitors, 
and the general public — crowded about the booth from 
opening to closing time. The visitors' book was filled 
with signed expressions of praise and congratulations 
from famous men and women. Among the autographs 

38 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

was that of John Bunny of hallowed memory. Tins 
comedian and his elongated companion, Flora Finch, 
were the romantic film fun makers of the period. At 
that time the "Birth of a Nation' ' had not yet been 
produced, but with the growing interest of the public 
there was no doubt about the movies being a money- 
making business. So I was riding in with the pioneer 
movie makers. I had discovered something new for 
the camera, a virgin field for entertainment and profit 
— submarine moving pictures. Offers of financial aid 
came freely and unsolicited. 

Money was all-important. An expedition to the 
West Indies to invade Neptune's realm with a camera 
would be cosdy; and I realized that only in the crystal 
clear waters of the tropics would it be possible to attain 
the results at which I aimed. Until I had conferred 
with my brother George, who had taken a deep interest 
in my experiments, I was not sure whether I wanted 
the enterprise financed by outside capital, or whether 
it would be better to organize a company at home. 
Prominent bankers and business men of Norfolk had 
expressed interest in the scheme, and after discussing 
the matter from every angle, we decided to decline 
with thanks the offers of extensive promotion from the 
north, and accept the more conservative support of our 
friends in the south. A company was formed and 
ample funds seemed assured to carry out the undersea 
motion picture expedition to the West Indies. After all, 

39 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

we should pay no fabulous salaries to movie stars, we 
should receive no bills for wardrobes, though our 
actors from the finny tribe might wear the most 
gorgeous and glittering costumes. 

This expedition was to be the big test, the real proof 
of die future possibilities of submarine photography. 
Many anxious days and nights were devoted to plan- 
ning everything to the most minute detail. I visited 
the Pennsylvania steel mills and arranged for the 
casting of my new deep-sea " photosphere," which, 
complete with its great glass windows, would weigh 
nearly four tons. Optical experts in Rochester accepted 
my specifications for lenses and film. Mercury vapour 
lighting engineers contracted to provide proper illumin- 
ation by means of my new deep sea lamps. Everything 
appeared to be moving smoothly, and I saw success 
ahead, when I was met in New York by one of my 
principal backers who informed me he had talked the 
matter over with his associates and that they had 
decided the whole scheme was too much of an experi- 
ment to warrant the necessary investment, and un- 
less He didn't need to say any more. My next 

duty was to restore his confidence. He was a man 
whose opinion commanded respect in business matters, 
and no doubt he felt he was right. I had to admit that 
the margin of complete financial success was slim, and 
that- we were investing with hopes, but with no cer- 
tainty of profit. It was an undertaking never before 

4 1 



ich would weigh nearly four tons'" 
>HOTOSPHERE DESIGNED BY THE AUTHOR 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

attempted. We were pioneers in every sense of the 
word. While I was confident of success myself, it was 
another matter to convince a very practical business 
man. I pointed out that my Chesapeake Bay experi- 
ments proved I' could secure under-water photographs 
showing a radius of eight feet and confirmed the simple 
theory that I could photograph anything I could see, 
even through water. I could take pictures at far greater 
distances in the clear waters of the West Indies where 
the visibility was good for hundreds of feet. Moreover, 
in such waters, a motion picture camera could film 
successfully wonders hitherto unknown. However, 
my good friend remained unconvinced, until by 
chance I mentioned the name of an authority in the 
film business, who was anxious to support my project. 
A meeting was arranged between this man and the 
financier. As a result of this conference, my newly- 
formed company made over a fifty per cent interest 
to the optimistic film magnate in exchange for a motion 
picture camera, a camera man, the necessary film, and 
the promise to market the completed film to the best 
advantage. 

With all equipment ready for shipment, and all 
business details arranged, I sailed for a voyage of 
reconnaisance to the port of Nassau in February of 19 14. 
A blizzard swallowed the harbour of Norfolk as I 
steamed away toward the heaving seas in the Atlantic. 
After a stormy day, a summer-time feeling announced 

42 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, that flowing sea 
of cobalt blue. There followed balmy days and starlit 
nights. At last one daybreak brought us to a tiny 
lighthouse. We had arrived at the bar off Nassau, 
main port of die Bahamas. 

A shower of tropical sunshine descended as the 
tender entered the harbour, and I blinked with amaze- 
ment at the transparency of the water. The sea was as 
clear as crystal. 

"That's it!" I shouted involuntarily, to assure myself 
that it was true. If anyone heard me, he could not 
know of the months of anxiety behind my expression 
of joy. I was nearing my goal. I had arrived in a smiling 
land of wonders. Bright sunlight shimmered on the 
hillside city. Old forts gnarled the hill-tops on either 
side, and in between, the quaint buildings, pink and 
white, were like cameos, matted in flowers and palm- 
trees. 

At masthead over the landing-place fluttered the 
Union Jack, a reminder of the far-flung British Empire. 
Picturesque sailing ships from the seven seas were 
cradled in the harbour. In this haven, in days gone by, 
pirates and smugglers had hatched out their schemes. 
Isolated, the place was self-contained with its ship- 
yards, ship chandlers, and sailors ever ready for adven- 
ture.- Here I could find men and material for anything 
dealing with the sea. 

After a month in Nassau, my work vessel was ready 

43 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

to receive the many tons of equipment arriving and 
being unloaded under the watchful eye of my brother. 
From the first the brothers Williamson had been men of 
mystery to the islanders and, now, as they watched us 
transferring strange steel objects and queer-looking 
gear to an odd-looking craft with a huge hole in its 
bottom, they obviously considered us quite mad. At 
length our mystery ship swallowed the last of its load 
and was moved to anchorage in the back stream. 
Rapidly the apparatus was assembled. The massive 
undersea chamber slipped downward through the well 
into the sea with fifteen fathoms of the great flexible 
steel tube ready to be fixed into place. Then, with the 
one hundred and one connections made, the wiring 
for the undersea lamps was completed and we were 
ready for out submarine adventure. 

No, not quite ready, for I was still awaiting the 
arrival of the next fortnightly steamer which would 
bring two additional members of the expedition. One 
was Carl L. Gregory, expert cameraman, who was 
blessed with an accumulation of motion picture know- 
ledge. The other was Keville Glennan, now historian 
of the expedition and none other than the erstwhile 
editor of the Virginian Pilot. Declaring that, as he had 
covered my first big scoop and had, figuratively speak- 
ing, put me on the map, he was entitled to be in on the 
second-r-or at my finish. 

My brother George, Gregory, Glennan, and myself 

44 



THE FIRST PICTURES OUT OF THE DEPTHS 

formed a likely quartet, the four undersea horsemen, 
destined to ride with the expedition to success or — but 
only a fleeting thought was ever given to the possibility 
of failure. 



45 



Chapter II 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 



NOW that everything — men and machinery — was 
in readiness, Nature suddenly conspired against us. 
For twelve days, black squalls, whipping winds and 
tumultuous seas held us, impotent prisoners, within 
the shelter of the coral reefs against which the great 
seas roared and pounded, flinging spray high in the air 
as in a fury at our temerity in attempting to learn the 
secrets of their depths. 

Widi nothing else to do, we had time to give serious 
thought to what was before us. We discussed the rela- 
tive chances of success or failure and jokingly I sug- 
gested that in case we failed, it might be advisable to 
vanish into the interior of the island. 

At last the elements wearied of their futile rage and a 
glorious day dawned, with sparkling sunshine, scarcely 
a breeze and a perfect sun. 

To an onlooker our vessel would have appeared idle, 
purposeless, almost deserted. But inside and below 
decks she was a hive of loosened energy, a tumult of 
joyous shouting, noisy work and feverish activity. 
With a whirr of gears, our tunnel of steel slid gently 

4 6 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

into the sea. Like a mammoth antenna, the flexible 
tube felt its way giving and taking to the currents, 
curving to their flow, until five fathoms of its length 
had been lowered through the open well in the bottom 
of our craft. The chamber was close to the bottom. 
The hour of our supreme test had arrived. 

With a shout of elation I descended into the tube, 
followed by the others. Reaching the photosphere I 
stood spellbound at the sight which greeted me. 
Could this be real, or was I dreaming? Nothing I 
had ever imagined had equalled this. It was more than 
I had ever dared hope for. Down from above through 
the crystal clear waters streamed the bright sunlight, 
which, striking the white marl bottom, was reflected 
in a glittering, rippling plane of light. No artificial 
illumination was needed. We couldn't fail in this light. 
The camera would tell the story! 

For our test we had several skilful diving boys already 
enrolled as members of our crew. Shillings and quarter- 
dollars were piled on deck and eagerly the black boys 
pressed forward listening to my instructions. All was 
ready. The boys were chattering like monkeys in the 
excitement — not only were they to earn good "hard" 
money by diving, but they were to be stars in the first 
movie ever filmed under the sea. Descending into the 
camera chamber where the movie apparatus was loaded 
and focussed I gave the signal. "Go ! " What a striking 
study their muscular black bodies would make in 

47 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

contrast to the light flooded stage set for them! What 
a great "shot" their struggles would make as they 
snatched for the elusive silver. 

The camera was humming in action. A few fleeting 
shadows danced over the bottom of the sea. Nothing 
more. Where were the boys? Surely they must be 
down there somewhere. Why could I not see them? 
Had they failed us, or was there some optical illusion, 
some obtuse trickery in the undersea panorama before 
me? The explanation proved simple enough. The 
answer to the mystery was the big secret of die diving 
boys' trade. We had expected the coins to sink swifdy 
to the bottom, but instead, they moved slowly, aqua- 
planing, rocking and sliding through the water, easy 
money indeed for the wise young rascals who seized 
the flashing bits of silver before they were half-way 
down. It was a huge joke on us, but we soon fixed that 
by giving the coins a handicap and forcing the boys to 
wait until the silver was nearing the bottom before 
diving after it. This time diere was no mystery, no 
puzzle. Down through the water dropped the coins, 
slowly, gently, catching the glint of the sun first on 
one side and then on the other as they descended. 
And down after them came the boys, flashing downward 
with long swift strokes, white-soled feet kicking, and 
leaving a trail of silvery bubbles in their wake. And 
what action ! Before die windows of our photosphere, 
under the eye of the clicking camera, they fought and 

48 



"Down after them came the bo 
NATIVES DIVING FOR COI 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

struggled. They searched in the soft white marl for 
lost coins and looked like blue ghosts in the cloud of 
white ooze stirred up by their efforts. Again and again 
they dived into our field of vision, until the supply of 
coins was exhausted. But it was enough. We had shot 
the first motion pictures ever taken under the sea. 
I was supremely, crazily happy, for I was as certain as 
I had ever been of anything that the film had recorded 
every detail, that motion pictures beneath the sea were 
not only possible, but an accomplished fact. There was 
yet another test to be made. I must prove that my 
lights would enable me to take pictures at night when 
there was no natural illumination under the water. It 
would never have satisfied me to confine underseas 
movies to shoal water. I was blazing a trail to the 
darkest depths of the ocean. 

That night the worst fears of the inhabitants of the 
island must have seemed confirmed. All day they had 
watched us from a safe distance. Now, in the darkness 
of night, a great circular arc of white appeared upon the 
black expanse of sea, with our vessel silhouetted like a 
tiny black island in its centre. That settled it. We 
were worse than crazy. We were working some sort 
of dark magic. Obeah! They were not far wrong, 
for as I flashed on my banks of lights in the submarine 
chamber the result seemed magical indeed. Terrified 
fish darted like wraiths from the blinding glare, only 
to return fascinated, curious to investigate this strange 

50 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

phenomenon. Upon the floor of the sea, creeping and 
crawling creatures were moving, attracted by the 
unwonted light. Everywhere, claws, horns and an- 
tennae stirred among the corals and marine life. In one 
spot the craning head and neck of a turtle stood stiffly 
erect, staring toward us with unwinking eyes. I jumped 
to the camera, and as it hummed into action suddenly 
all outside the chamber was commotion. A phos- 
phorescent body shot into the lighted space and pounced 
on the turtle. Not for several moments did I recognize 
it as one of our diving boys, who, seeing the turtle 
revealed by our undersea illumination had promptly 
secured it for a feast. 

We had pitched our dark-room in an old stone 
building buried in a cluster of coco-nut trees and 
fragrant flowers that opened at night. The darker the 
night the darker the room inside, for through chinks 
in the crumbling building could be seen the twinkling 
heavens above; here in this ancient structure haunted 
by ghosts of a romantic past, we would know our 
future. I helped with the ice and brought water from 
an aged well. My mind was in a jumble, and I felt like 
a prisoner who awaits the verdict of the jury. I kept 
as close as possible to the tanks and to the dark-room. 
Dead silence. Then grunts in the tank-room gave way 
to sounds which were more encouraging. I knew 
when the singing commenced it was time to go in, 
and I stole through the curtained opening with that 

5 1 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

wonderful feeling of exhilaration that comes from 
knowing that a victory has been won. It was there in 
that strip of film ! In the tiny frames no larger than a 
row of postage stamps were the negatives. The first 
undersea motion pictures in the world ! Best of all, the 
films exposed by our artificial light were fully as 
successful as those taken by sunlight. 

The supreme moment, the successful climax of those 
weary months of effort, those countless obstacles and 
bitter disappointments, of nerve-racking days and sleep- 
less nights, of endless plans and experiments had come 
on the stroke of midnight. Too excited to sleep, too 
filled with emotion to dream of retiring, I wandered 
to the edge of the sea that stretched black and mysterious, 
reflecting like a mirror the brilliant stars of the tropical 
sky above. 

Not until the eastern sky paled with the coming of 
dawn did I seek our sleeping quarters where my three 
companions were snoring lustily. Yet judging by the 
pile of letters stamped and ready for the morning post, 
they too had been occupied with other matters than 
slumber since that epochal midnight hour. Within a 
week, parents, sweethearts and friends would all learn 
of the successful culmination of our endeavours, and I 
added my quota to His Majesty's mails by writing a 
full report of our triumph to our financiers, enclosing 
with it a section of die first underseas film. 

The following week was one of hectic work, suc- 

52 



FROM ONE OF WILLIAMSON'S EARLY UNDERSEA FILMS- 
THE HEROINE VISITS THE WRECK OF A SHI 



"*'-•*£; 

V 



<8 





i 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

cesses and failures, experiments and surprises, high 
adventure and near tragedy. We had many prominent 
visitors, also. Buoyantly confident, now that our first 
tests had proved so successful, we rushed blindly ahead 
and sailed forth into the open sea. Deeper and deeper 
we lowered the photosphere at the end of its flexible 
tube. But we were veritable tenderfeet at this game. 
We were in an unknown realm dealing with strange 
forces and we had much to learn. We discovered this 
one day when we lowered our apparatus among the 
great coral reefs. Breathless with wonder at the weird 
beauty of the undersea life unfolding in colourful 
panorama before us, we were gazing entranced when, 
like a flock of frightened birds, a school of fish dashed 
past our window. The next instant the great steel 
photosphere tipped and swayed as we were caught in 
an underseas current. With a sickening, terrifying crash 
we were dashed against a great dome-shaped mass of 
coral. The flexible tube bent and, together with every- 
thing movable, we were tumbled head over heels. Yet 
in the terror and excitement of that moment my mind 
fastened upon one vital thing — the big glass window! 
If diat went, if it were broken or even cracked, my 
experiments under the ocean would be over. 

Fate was kind to us. By pure luck, or through die 
intervention of Providence, the glass did not strike the 
coral and the next moment we had dragged over the 
reef and once more were poised upright and safe in 

54 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

open water beyond the dangerous mass. The ingenious 
bending of the tube had saved us. Here was lesson 
number one. The depths of the sea were not so tranquil 
and calm as we had imagined. There were treacherous 
tides and currents below, as well as at the surface. 
Even when we rested apparently motionless in still 
water, the great steel tube bent in a long curve between 
our chamber and the vessel above. It behoved us to be 
mighty careful in future and to learn to navigate the 
depths and to avoid underseas reefs as skilfully as the 
mariner pilots his ship through channels on the sur- 
face. 

During the next few hours we should have to be 
doubly careful, for His Excellency, the Governor of 
the Bahamas, was to pay us a visit, and with his own 
eyes gaze for the first time on the wonders of his 
under-water regions. 

News of our success had spread rapidly. Our first 
visitor had been die local United States consul, who, 
after descending into the chamber and watching us 
work had written an official report to the State Depart- 
ment at Washington on our "alluring and commend- 
able enterprise. ,, "I actually descended far under water 
and so have actual knowledge of the application of the 
Williamson inventions to motion picture photography," 
he wrote. "The photographer sits in the work chamber 
with an ordinary camera securing motion picture 
material during many hours at a stretch." A very dry 

55 







|H 




BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

and matter of fact description perhaps, but serving as 
proof to a sceptical world that we had succeeded. 

Even the natives had altered their opinions of our 
sanity and purpose, and when the Governor and his 
wife and party boarded our launch for a trip beneath 
the sea, the natives regarded us with profound respect. 

Seated in the photosphere behind the great glass 
window the Governor and his wife gazed entranced 
upon his "kingdom down under the sea." Ever 
expanding as we moved along was the jungle of waving, 
feathery plant-like gorgonias — sea feathers and sea fans, 
red, brown, black, mauve, golden and green. Then the 
jungle gave way to a forest of spreading coral trees with 
gorgeous fishes, like bright-plumaged tropical birds, 
flitting among the branches. A school of hunted fish 
swept by, flashing like jewels, their pursuer, a silvery 
menace, hard on their trail. An angelfish moved with 
languid grace through a shadowy grotto, while just 
below our window, a great wolf-fanged barracuda 
kept grim watch over a deep hole in the sea bed wherein 
he had bottled up his prey. 

When our distinguished visitors had left, wilted 
collars and ties were cast aside, and, like bees in clover, 
we plunged to our neglected work. 

Both day and night work was the order. Even the 
historian of the expedition abandoned his typewriter, 
rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Then, as the 
culmination of that week of labour, my brother, clad 

57 



rhaps . . . the remains of some old ship of Spain 
)AVY JONES'S LOCKER 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

in a diving suit, dropped to the sea's floor among the 
coral reefs where we had discovered the wreck of some 
long-forgotten ship. In ghostly pantomime he moved 
about the ribs and backbone of the ancient hulk, while 
a stream of air bubbles rushed from the helmet to the 
surface far above. Here was a thrill! Many a treasure- 
laden galleon had been sunk in these seas. Among die 
rotted timbers the outlines of corroded cannon could 
be seen. Perhaps, unwittingly, we had come upon the 
remains of some high-pooped, pot-bellied old ship of 
Spain with a fortune in golden ingots and pieces of 
eight hidden in the tangle of sea growths within her 
hold. Our diver had caught the fever of adventure, the 
excitement of treasure seeking, and presendy, poking 
about amid the wreckage he found the highly ornate 
brass bell of the old ship. And though no bars or 
bullion or silver coins rewarded his search, yet we 
obtained our treasure — treasure more precious to us 
than doubloons and plate — the recorded film of an 
actual treasure hunt at the bottom of the sea. 

Our photography was perfect. For the entire week 
we had only the best of luck. We were impatient to 
let the people at home hear of our phenomenal success. 
The mails were far too slow for such important news 
and recklessly we cabled, caring not a snap of our 
fingers for expense, so intoxicated were we with 
victory. 

Nevertheless, expense was a mighty serious matter. 

58 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

For the first time I began to give die matter earnest 
consideration. The costs of the expedition were piling 
up with alarming rapidity. With a month or more 
before us, the question was how could we use time and 
money to die best advantage? A conference was called, 
and ways and means were discussed. The review was 
encouraging. Gala days were near — Empire Day and 
the King's Birthday — big celebrations in die loyal 
British Colony. We could take movies of life above as 
well as beneath the sea. Then in our undersea rendez- 
vous were the game fish, tarpon and swordfish, the 
hunting preserves of shark and devil fish. No telling 
what was in store for us and our faithful camera. 

Then came news of two scientific expeditions in 
neighbouring seas. Some of the greatest oceanographers 
from the Carnegie Institute and the Brooklyn Museum 
were in charge of the work. Here was a real oppor- 
tunity. Near at hand were men of science who had 
probed the ocean to its greatest depth. They knew the 
undersea creatures by name and could classify them root 
and branch. Our knowledge of marine zoology was 
nil, but we had acquired a fund of practical knowledge 
regarding the private lives and habits of the creatures 
of the sea, so we invited the scientists to come down and 
have a look at their specimens in their native haunts. 

Never shall I forget their enthusiasm as they gazed 
through our window upon the floor of the sea, which, 
for years, they had been studying and exploring quite 

59 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

blindly from the surface. Their visit opened up a new 
and undreamed-of field for the undersea camera — the 
photographic records of submarine life for the benefit 
of science. Here indeed lay unlimited possibilities. At 
any moment the searching eye of our camera might 
discover and record something entirely new in marine 
life. And presently it happened! 

The leader of the Brooklyn Museum expedition was 
with me in the photosphere studying a school of parrot- 
fish and a hundred other species of tropical beauties 
when suddenly a strange creature appeared. Into our 
range of vision swam a weird, ugly fish two feet or more 
in length. Above its caricature of a face rose a staff 
and from the tip of this staff streamed a pure white 
flag ! But, obviously, it was no flag of truce, or at least 
it was not recognized as such, for with one hurried 
glance at the monstrosity every fish in sight turned and 
dashed away as if for dear life. Alone, monarch of all 
he surveyed, the flag-carrier moved uncertainly in a 
circle, and then vanished in pursuit of the retreating 
fish. 

We were to find out, however, that the bizarre and 
unannounced visitor was extremely rare, but not 
entirely unknown to science. Zoologists identified our 
photographs of the monster as a fish known to them 
by the Latin name of "Equus Punctatus, ,, or "spotted 
horse." Though Spotted Horse would have found 
little favour as food for the stomach, it certainly pro- 

60 



BENEATH TROPIC SEAS 

vided much food for thought on the part of the scient- 
ists, for our specimen was a decided puzzle to them. 
Scientific descriptions of "Equus Punctatus" called 
for a single dorsal fin, while our photographs showed 
the fish to have two. Finally, the scientists concluded 
that some marauder must have bitten a section out of 
the dorsal adornment of our unorthodox creature, and 
let it go at that. But the upright staff with its white 
flag was not so readily disposed of. No "Spotted 
Horse" ever known had hoisted a flag. They shook 
their learned heads. There could be no mistake on our 
part. Photographs, like figures, do not lie. Finally 
they gave it up, after suggesting that the flagstaff was 
an abnormal growth, or some parasite clinging to our 
fish. No doubt they were correct, but abnormal or 
not, weird, ugly old Spotted Horse, flag and all, was a 
welcome addition to our "rogues' gallery" of fishes. 



61 



Chapter III 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 



BEFORE starting on the expedition, I had, in an 
optimistic moment, assured our financial backers 
that our undersea movies would include a shark fight 
— an actual combat between a man and a savage tiger 
of the sea. I had not for a moment forgotten that 
promise. In fact, I was constantly reminded of it as 
sharks flirted about our undersea chamber day and 
night. Just how the battle was to be staged was a 
problem I had not been able to solve. Then I re- 
ceived a letter reminding me of my confident assur- 
ance of a shark fight. This letter was like a long finger, 
pointing to the dramatic climax of our achieve- 
ments. My promise must be made good, for time 
was getting short, funds were running low and 
the sharks were ready for business even if we were 
not. 

Obviously the contest must be of short duration. 
Obviously, also, it must be fought directly in front of 
the camera which covered but twenty degrees of the 
circular arena outside my photosphere. It would be a 
comparatively easy matter to bait the sharks within 

63 



welcome addition to our rogues' gallery of fishes'" 

RJUS PUNCTATUS" (SPOTTED HORSE) WITH UNIQUE FLAGSTAFF 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

range of the lens. But which of the men with us would 
fight these cannibals of the sea ? 

At last, proper inducements having been offered, two 
of our native crew agreed to play the part of submarine 
gladiators. They were capable, reliable, and as nearly 
amphibious as human beings can be, and with them we 
worked out our plan of action. 

A horse for bait was the positive decree of the 
natives. A horse we must have to obtain results. We 
sent men ashore to round up some decrepit beast whose 
days were numbered anyway. The search proved 
futile. We advertised, but received no answer. We 
began to feel a great deal of sympathy for the king 
who shouted, "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a 
horse !" We felt the same way. 

Finally, when we had just about given up hope, we 
located a man who owned an old horse that was lame 
and had been condemned to be shot. Immediately we 
negotiated for the carcass. The owner was to make 
delivery the next morning in our yard at the waterfront. 

Came the dawn. Came the man, and worst of all, 
came the horse! The reports of his expected demise, 
like Mark Twain's death, had been grossly exaggerated. 
No animal could be shot, it appeared, without an 
official British Government permit. We were in a 
real dilemma. 

Suddenly there came the flash of spiked helmets in 
the sun, accompanied by the military tramp of feet, 

6 4 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

and swinging into our yard came a guard of Bahamas 
police in charge of an officer. They came to a halt 
near the horse, which was thoroughly examined and 
found lame. With great formality the officer read 
aloud to the horse the permit. A soldier handed him a 
pneumatic gun. With neither a murmur nor a sigh our 
horse sat down, then lay down, its troubles definitely 
over. 

In the business of shark fighting, tense moments were 
to come. I could sense this in the looks of the men 
and their movements as we made preparations for the 
encounter at a location the grey sea tigers were known 
to frequent. 

A crew of men had been detailed to look after our 
bait, which was suspended from a boom and allowed to 
sink down into the sea for a safe distance. First came 
two grey monsters, wary, circling about, baleful eyes 
alert, grinning teeth bared. But they were suspicious. 
Suddenly turning, they sped away. Soon others ap- 
peared, wrinkling their blunt snouts and rolling their 
eyes upward as they caught the scent of blood. They 
also retreated. Again and again this was repeated, but 
each time the sharks approached they were in greater 
numbers and each time they were bolder, hungrier, and 
more anxious to hurl themselves blindly at the tempt- 
ing bait floating above our photosphere. Presently, 
with a rush, one great monster flashed upward with 
open jaws. 

65 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

The men on the deck were ready for just such an 
emergency. Quickly they raised die boom, lifting the 
carcass clear of die water. Chagrined, the shark slunk 
back, but he lurked nearby, and when the bait was 
lowered again, he and his companions made a con- 
certed rush. This time the men were not quick enough. 
The sharks threw themselves upon the meat, tearing at 
it, shaking it as a terrier shakes a rat, gulping down 
great mouthfuls. Once they had tasted it, they forgot 
all caution, all suspicion. They had but one urge, and 
when the bait was lifted and they were baffled, they 
became obsessed with a maniacal fury and snapped and 
tore blindly at one another. Good, the madder they 
became, the better for us, the more savage would they 
appear in our picture, and the more thrilling would be 
the final scene of battle. 

The human shark fighters appeared quite uncon- 
cerned about the ravenous beasts. While the sharks 
were being goaded into a frenzy, their human antag- 
onists were rubbing oil into their black skins, the 
younger diving boys gazing at them in awe and 
admiration. Time for action had come. Summoning 
one of them, I told him all was ready, to choose his 
moment and go for it. Pointing down through the 
clear water, I warned him to be sure and stage his duel 
in front of the window or all our work would be lost. 
I explained that he must start when his intended victim 
was in position. It was not a simple matter even for a 

6 7 



isping the long-bladed knife in his teeth, he dived 
RK HUNTER OUT AFTER BIG GAME 






#« r 





A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

person who understood the limitation of our camera 
movements within the photosphere, and I could see 
that such details meant little to this native, who, never 
in his life, had even seen a motion picture. It was like 
ordering a pugilist to be in a certain definite spot at a 
certain moment when he dealt the k.o. to his opponent 
in the ring. The diver had a much more difficult feat 
to perform. 

The next instant there was a splash. The man was 
gone. The camera was started. But there was no battle 
under the sea. Gesticulating wildly, the diver was 
feinting, shadow-boxing, knife in hand. Then he shot 
to the surface and clambered out. 

Again we lowered the bait while the diver waited, 
tense, gazing downward through the water like a 
hungry fish hawk, keen and eager for his prey. Sharks 
were now cruising about. The time had come. Grasp- 
ing his long-bladed knife in his teeth, he dived. We 
watched tense, thrilled, excited. Like a skilled matador 
in die bull-ring, the man was placing himself in position 
to strike home a death blow, and, like a wary bull, the 
shark was doing the same. 

They circled about, moving quickly first one way 
and then another. A moment more and both antagonists 
had swung far out of the range of the camera. We 
yelled. We shouted. It did no good. He could not 
hear us, and even if he could, it would not have helped 
matters. It was too late for him to change his tactics. 

6 9 



he diver drove his knife up to the hilt into his enemy''' 
ITURE OF A SHARK FIGHT TAKEN FROM THE PHOTOSPHERE 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

The position of the shark controlled matters down 
there. Hauling wildly at the gear, sweating, shouting, 
our crew fought madly to swing the vessel and bring 
the photosphere into position. But affairs moved swifdy. 
With a sudden forward dash, the diver drove his knife 
up to the hilt into his enemy. It was a wonderful and 
spectacular feat, but completely lost to the camera! 

The diver bobbed up, grinning and triumphant. He 
danced on deck and boasted of his prowess. He had 
killed a shark, and he went below well satisfied with his 
day's work. He was through. 

There was nothing to do but try it all over again 
with the other diver. Somehow I hadn't much con- 
fidence in this fellow. However, I repeated my warn- 
ings and instructions, and as he had watched the other 
man, I felt that he should understand just what was 
required of him. He announced that he was ready. 
Again the bait was lowered. For a moment we waited. 
Then, knife in teeth; over he went. Cautiously he 
moved, watchful, alert. A shark spotted him and 
made a rush. That was enough. Up he shot for 
safety, with the shark at his heels. Reaching the dead 
horse, which we were purposely keeping out of our 
picture, the diver used it as a shield, dodging about, 
evading the snapping teeth of the shark by inches, 
stark terror on his face. As a shark fighter he was an 
utter wash-out, but as a comedian he was a riot. But 
we wanted to film drama, not comedy. 

70 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

Wearily I looked about for another diver, but the 
men had vanished. I found them concealed in the hold, 
and one glance at their faces was enough. There was 
no fight in them. It would be hopeless to ask for 
volunteers. 

Failure! Utter failure after all our preparations and 
trouble. We seemed to have reached the end of our 
resources. A shark fight without a fighter was im- 
possible, and we had no fighter. Utterly depressed and 
discouraged, I seated myself on the capstan. I had 
given my word that we would film a shark fight and 
we had failed. We had shot nearly two miles of film 
and all we needed were a few yards more, a few yards 
that might mean overwhelming success. They would 
be the punch we needed to put the whole thing over. 

Suddenly I was inspired. I would get that picture. 
I would fight the shark myself! 

I pulled off my clothing, cut short the legs of my 
thin trousers, and borrowed a long-bladed native shark 
knife. If a Bahaman negro could fight a shark, I could. 
I was as good a swimmer as any of the men, I was 
stronger and more physically fit than any of the natives. 
Moreover, I had watched every movement, every feint, 
every turn and twist of the diver who had killed the 
shark. Possibly I was over-confident. Probably, having 
become so accustomed to seeing the monsters swim- 
ming about separated from me by an inch or two of 
glass, I had lost man's instinctive terror of the sea tigers. 

7i 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

But by watching sharks in their natural habitat, under 
all sorts of conditions, I had acquired a deep know- 
ledge of their ways and motions, their psychology 
and their limitations. At any rate, I felt no fear, no 
dread of meeting a man-eater face to face. Naturally 
I was a bit excited and thrilled at the prospect before 
me. 

Of one thing, though, I was certain. I would make 
a good scene of it, no matter what happened. I would 
not spoil the show by getting beyond the camera's 
vision. 

Walking aft, I called all hands on deck and told them 
of my decision. Eyes rolled. Mouths opened in amaze- 
ment. No one had ever heard of a white man attempt- 
ing the feat. I was going to my death, they felt certain. 
But they rubbed me down with their oil, which they 
declared was a secret compound. Perhaps it was, for 
I have never smelled anything to equal it. 

Below in the watery arena I could count the sharks. 
Twelve great brutes ! If only one more would arrive. 
If only they would total my lucky number — thirteen! 
I dived, but only for rehearsal. The first native diver 
had been wise. I would follow his example — take a 
look about — go through the pantomime. I didn't 
rehearse very long. It wasn't so comfortable after all 
down there with those skulking grey forms on every 
side. Back once more on the surface, the stunt began 
to fascinate me. I shouted the signal for camera and 

72 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

waited — watching for a shark to appear in the area 
covered by the lens. 

There he was! I flashed into action. Down through 
the water I plunged and swam. With a sweep of an 
arm, I veered to one side and the next instant was 
beneath the shark. What a monster he was! But I had 
no time to dwell on this. No time to repent of my 
hare-brained adventure. It was too late for retreat, 
for with a flirt of his tail the shark had turned and was 
dashing open-mouthed at me! 

But even in that tense moment I caught a glimpse of 
the window of the chamber. I saw the men feverishly 
working with the camera, and I knew that, whatever 
happened in the next few seconds, they at least would 
get the picture of pictures. 

My lungs seemed bursting. I had been under water 
longer than ever before. Now the great grey body was 
almost upon me. I remembered the native diver's trick. 
Veering aside, I grasped the monster's fin, felt my hand 
close upon it. With a twist, I was under the livid white 
belly at the spot I was trying to reach. With all my 
remaining strength I struck. A quivering thrill raced 
up my arm as I felt the blade bury itself to the hilt in 
the flesh, and the next moment I was swung right and 
left by a lashing body. Then a blur, confusion — chaos. 
I believed I was swimming desperately, striving madly 
to reach the surface, but I couldn't be sure. Everything 
seemed hazy, indistinct ! 

73 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Hands slapping my back brought me back to reality 
with a jerk. Somehow I had managed to reach the 
deck. Everyone was shouting, and congratulating me. 
I had killed the shark ! 

Still panting from exertion, my head in a whirl, I slid 
down the tube in time to witness the end of the shark. 
With upturned belly gleaming in the wavering sunlight 
filtering through the waters, the dead monster was 
drifting away. Its companion sucker-fish was nibbling 
at the bloody flesh about the gaping wound over the 
heart — a cold-blooded cannibal devouring the flesh of 
his recent cannibal host. 

A week later we boarded the steamer for New York, 
our precious film guarded like a chest of gold. 

There was much to be done before the results of our 
expedition could be shown to the world. Five weeks 
in the cutting-room and laboratory found us with a 
complete celluloid ribbon, six thousand feet long. Six 
reels of film representing all our hopes and ambitions; 
a tiny package a foot square. 

With this box of treasure we boarded the train for 
Washington, D.C., where the Smithsonian Institute 
was to give the initial exhibition of our film. News- 
papers had announced die event and the imagination of 
the public had been aroused. The demand for admission 
had been unprecedented, overwhelming the officials of 
the Institute. Scientists and members would fill the 
huge auditorium at the scheduled four o'clock showing. 

74 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATER 

There was no room for others. Still the 'phone kept 
ringing, as it had rung for days, with government 
officials and others high in position clamouring for a 
chance to view the undersea pictures. 

Could another showing be made at noon to accom- 
modate the overflow? It could, and off I dashed to 
search for the projection operator, and before noon 
everything was in readiness. 

The attendance that noon hour was tremendous and 
convincing. I could not even get in myself. The great 
hall was taxed to capacity. Perhaps I was dreaming all 
this. I had had such visions on nights when I slept on 
a bench in the cutting-room with a bag in readiness to 
scoop up the priceless undersea negative in case of fire, 
on nights when we feverishly developed our films in 
the crumbling stone building in the tropics. But this 
wonderful crowd must be real. I found credentials in 
my pockets and slowly worked around to an opening 
where I squeezed in on my papers, to see my own show, 
and to witness a most amazing scene. 

Working my way around the back of the audience 
behind men and women standing on tip-toe, I crawled 
up breathless to the projection booth to watch the 
fragile film pass through the machine. It was holding 
together. Five reels had run through. We were into 
the last one. A snap of the celluloid would be doubly 
awful now. Suspense would be broken, and govern- 
ment officials and others might realize that their lunch 

75 






.<&m 



A DUEL WITH A MAN-EATliR 

hour had long since passed. But die film spun through 
to the climax. Thunderous applause, music to my 
ears, broke the intense silence as the lights flashed on. 

At the four o'clock showing a leading scientist made 
a brief address. He glanced over the vast audience. 
"At noon," he said, "I appeared here to announce 
that I believed we were going to see some exceptionally 
good pictures. Now I wish to state that I not only 
believe, but I know, you are about to view the most 
remarkable photographs that have ever been made." 

It was glorious, inspiring beyond words, to hear such 
praise. It was ample reward for all our trials, our 
efforts, our labours. We had won the support and 
approval of the great body of scientists. 

Yet another test was before us. Could we win the 
same approval and praise from the general public? 
That night we showed our film at the National Press 
Club which was crowded to the doors. The results 
were as flattering as before, and having passed the 
critical gathering of international correspondents with 
flying colours, we hurried back to New York. As a 
scientific accomplishment, the Washington papers hailed 
the showing as "films that pierced the sea, each picture 
an absolute revelation." 

It was the verdict of the amusement seeking public 
however, upon which we depended for financial 
success. Our pictures had no story, no plot. They had 
to be presented as a film feature, solely on their own 

77 



JACK FLASHES THROUGH 

AVING GORGONIAS AND CORAL HEADS 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

merits, as a record of our undersea expedition. As such 
they must succeed or fail. A noted and experienced 
showman declared that the pictures would not go over. 
Film features were built about a love theme and sex. 
The people had come to expect a story, heart interest 
with every reel of film. 

Well, there was but one way to prove whether he 
was right or wrong — to show the films. We would 
open on Broadway, bored, thrill-weary, sophisticated 
Broadway, the crucible of all shows. We would 
occupy a new theatre, with our undersea pictures as 
the sole attraction. 

The show was a hit! 

Critics exploded with superlatives of praise. "Amaz- 
ing! Thrilling! Something entirely new! Something 
never before viewed by mankind. ,, 

We had brought the bottom of the sea to Broadway 
and Broadway liked it. 

After taking Gotham by storm our feature ran for 
seven months in Chicago. London was the next citadel 
to fall. And so on around the world. 

If there was nothing new under the sun, the " William- 
son Submarine Expedition' ' had proved that there was 
something new to be seen under the sea. 



78 



Chapter IV 

ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

COME with me under the sea. There in the great 
silence we can talk as wonders unfold along the 
ocean floor. Come just as you are, for you are not 
going down in a diving suit or helmet, a diving bell 
or any contraption that will get you wet, charge you 
with pressure, or cut you off from a free supply of the 
air above. You are going with me down the "hole in 
the sea" to cruise through the mysteries of the ocean 
— as comfortably as you would sit in your car and drive 
leisurely along a country road. 

We arrive in a place of enchantment near the outer 
fringe of the West Indies. Columbus, feeling blindly 
for land, may have steered over these very waters. 
The fairyland of the aquatic world awaits us below. 

The depth has been sounded and, section by section, 
the required length of our submarine tube has been 
coupled together and lowered away by our crew, and 
all is ready. 

You can climb down with me under the sea or be 
lowered in a seat, but the construction of the tube forms 
a natural ladder. You will climb? Fine! Let's go — 

79 






; 



ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

down — down we go. This is easy. We can rest awhile 
here, about forty feet below die surface. You can see 
how die water pressure affects the flexible metallic 
tube. It works in accordion-fashion, increasing its 
strength and adjusting itself to the varying pressure of 
the sea. The bending motion felt near the surface lessens 
as we descend. 

It is quiet here — away from the waves at the surface. 

Another forty feet down and we are in the photo- 
sphere at the bottom of the tube, thirteen fathoms deep. 
There is room for several more here, so we shall not be 
crowded. Please be seated and rest comfortably. You 
may smoke if you wish. There ! The comforts of home ! 
Now, to start on your journey. I draw the curtains 
aside so that you may see with your own eyes the 
mysterious floor of the ocean. 

Look! What luck! We have landed right in the 
heart of an old wreck with only its "dead bones" 
remaining. I was hoping to locate it, for I passed it 
here once before and I know it harbours some weird 
fish. Our eyes are becoming accustomed to the pale 
light now, but I can flash on my lights if they are 
needed. Did you see that giant moray loop out of the 
rotted ribs of the wreck ? His green snake-like body 
must have been twelve feet long. He is a species of 
conger eel equipped with poisonous teeth capable of 
shearing off a diver's arm or leg. 

I can never forget the encounter between one of my 

81 



t giant moray, with poisonous 

i capable of shearing off a mans leg 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

divers and an octopus in an old wreck like this. To 
see a man caught in the grasp of even one tentacle of 
the eight-armed monster, having possibly a reach of 
thirty feet, was a hair-raising thrill. It was a desperate 
struggle, and many slashing blows of the diver's knife 
were needed to sever the hold of this terrible beast of 
the deep. 

See this huge shark glide up ! It seems as if he is 
coming right in, driving his grey torpedo-like body 

toward us. If he doesn't change his course Good! 

His instinct to dodge saved our thick glass window a 
nasty shock, for he turned just a few inches away from 
it. However, you were quite safe, for I held the emer- 
gency cut-off and was prepared for any accident. 

Wonderfully clear are these Bahaman waters. You 
can see through two or three hundred feet here, the 
water is so transparent. On the shallower white banks 
I have seen objects four hundred feet away — sometimes 
even farther. What a weird panorama unfolds as we 
drift along through the length of this rotted, shell- 
encrusted hulk, with lazy fish lying motionless in the 
shadows. Nothing seems so lifeless as the sunken wrecks 
of ships — once so much alive, in their days of service. 

But we must watch out! The high stern looms up 
right in our path. That shark turned away and saved 
our big window, but a crash would be serious. Don't 
rise. We are all right. I telephone a signal — "On 
deck! Take up the chamber twelve feet.— All right! 

82 



"// seems as if he is coming right im 
A SMALL RAY TRYING TO AVOID A SH> 







m 
W 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Hold it! Lower away some. Hold steady!" Easy to 
handle is this "portable hole in the sea." I sit here with 
gauges to watch and controls to handle, while in close 
touch by telephone with my crew. I am the pilot, only 
the usual plan of piloting is inverted. On the bridge of 
a ship the pilot signals below. I signal up to the surface, 
setting the course for our vessel which carries along the 
"hole in the sea" and us with it, drawing up our studio 
or lowering it. You see, the whole invention broadly 
consists of three components — a surface floating vessel, 
a terminal work chamber, and the flexible connecting 
tube. 

Our wreck is far behind us and I am drawing up our 
chamber gradually as we approach a ledge. A sea of 
light seems to flow over the edge of it and down the 
white sand incline, in effect like a waterfall. Look up ! 
I will work a control and bend the tube round so that 
you may see overhead, the ceiling of the sea! There is 
a sight few have beheld. Millions of light beams 
flashing dirough the rippling cups of the waves at the 
surface, creating a rain of light, and as the shafts flash 
down to the sea bed, they weave a carpet of soft loops 
into a tangle of patterns which dance and flow on the 
sea floor. 

Now we are over the ledge and a straight-away course 
is open for easy sailing. A white coral sand prairie 
rolling like billows — a sand that is pardy coral, but 
sown widi the impalpable dust of shells. 

8 4 



ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

Do you know, there are great areas of quicksand 
under the sea ? In developing one of my films I con- 
ceived the idea of having one of my characters, as he 
walked along the sea-floor, caught and drawn into the 
quicksand. Another diver was to arrive on the scene 
and effect the rescue at the last moment. The rescuer 
could not, of course, follow into the quicksand. He 
must endeavour to sweep a chain around the sinking 
man, and by drawing the chain and tightening it, he 
would come within reach of the victim. 

Both divers were to be equipped with self-contained 
diving suits, which are diving suits that have no con- 
nection with the surface. The air supply is renewed 
and purified by a chemical known as oxylithe carried 
in the divers' containers. 

We had been running short of this chemical, and the 
men in this scene were forced to use old charges; a 
dangerous practice, for when their one hour of useful- 
ness is up, the foul gas coming from it suddenly intox- 
cates a diver so that, before he realizes it, he is a drunken 
maniac. 

I set the cameras going and, sitting below here, I 
felt the terrible menace as the advancing diver began to 
sink into the gripping ooze. They had a ticklish job, 
yet with skilful men in the chemical suits, I had felt it 
was worth risking. 

But I was due for a terrifying experience that might 
have ended in tragedy, though, strange to say, not 

85 




1 



ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

without a humorous side. The rescuing diver after 
cleverly placing the chain in the widest possible circle 
round the doomed man, suddenly stopped and sat 
down, hugging his knees like one watching a show, 
and apparently enjoying the exit of the man he had 
come to rescue. The fellow sitting there was strangely 
intoxicated — drunk on the ocean floor — and but for the 
fact that I held other divers and native swimmers in 
readiness for unforeseen accidents which often occurred 
in my peculiar work, our trapped man might have dis- 
appeared for ever. As it worked out, the " drunk " 
was harder to rescue than the almost victim of the 
quicksands. 

Hello! A call from the deck. The bridge signals 
that a squall is coming. Don't be alarmed in the least. 
Tve witnessed many storms from this very window 
under the sea. It's a great sight to look up underneath 
the surface when a heavy rain is on. Let us bend the 
tube round. We can now look up. Waves are splashing 
above, but on the under side they are undulating smooth- 
ly with no breaking crests. The sun is still shining and 
the silver rain of light comes down to us like fireworks. 
Suddenly the clouds shut out the sun and the heavy 
raindrops start to pelt the sea, penetrating for several 
inches, according to their size. They look like millions 
of lead pencils being shot into the sea and pulled back 
again. It is quite dark now. Flash! There goes the 
lightning, and close follows the muffled roll of thunder. 

87 



light and drawn into the quicksand" 
RESCUE OF A DIVER 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Down go the waves as the rain beats them smooth. 
I was nearly fooled by a storm like this during my 
honeymoon under the sea. It started like an ordinary 
one, but developed into a hurricane. 

I was sitting with my wife in a clustered reef with 
multitudes of fishes all round us. We were happy 
there, lost in the maze of beauty. It started to squall 
above, but assured by the direction of the wind, the 
crew gave no alarm. The signs were not those of a 
hurricane. But a sudden lurch of the chamber told me 
a heavy surge had rolled over the bottom of the sea. 
The fish scattered into the reef holes. Then came a long 
roll over the sea floor. This surge goes out like wireless, 
spreading its waves far in advance of a great storm. 
Sharks scurried by, wildly excited, while others gulped 
great mouthfuls of water and settled heavily to the 
bottom. A monster devil fish, straining with all speed, 
curved about with a dozen big amberjacks nesting on 
his broad back like circus riders. 

We went to the surface to investigate and the excited 
voices of the coloured boys relayed the news from a 
smack full of native fishermen, whose eyes were pop- 
ping out with fright as they flew to shelter in their 
frail craft. They shouted, "Big storm coming," for in 
some mysterious way the news had reached them from 
the Nassau Weather Bureau that a "tropical storm of 
severe intensity" was on its way. We were right in 
its path. Our barometer was dropping like mad. 

88 



ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

We lost no rime in getting away from the reefs to the 
nearest shelter with our outfit, and none too soon. 
Though strained almost to breaking point, we weathered 
the storm that took its tremendous toll in lives, and 
wrecked so many homes in Florida and the West 
Indies. 

But don't let this experience worry you now. Our 
little squall has passed by. The sunlight again lights 
up the sea-floor. There's a sight coming soon that will 
thrill you, for I am taking you to a forest of coral. 
Hello ! A parrot-fish pays us a visit right at our window. 
He is more than two feet long and must weigh twenty- 
five pounds. Observe the sheen of his blue-green body. 
His beak, like a parrot's, is as hard as flint. This spells 
trouble. See that! He drives at the glass and cuts a 
Z-shaped scratch. He is fighting himself in the looking- 
glass, for, over this white bottom, our window acts as 
a mirror. If more parrot-fish get the looking-glass 
signal for fight, we shall have to move quickly. A 
school of them beat me off once before. They wheeled 
about in army formation and attacked my big glass 
window. They got madder and madder as they hit 
the blank wall, nose to nose with their own reflections 
in the glass — to them a gang as angry as they were. 

What a flash of colour their bright-hued bodies made! 
But two weeks of polishing, with many aching arms 
and backs among my crew, failed to remove the 
scratches and a new glass had to be cast and imported, 

8 9 



. 




I 







:&ilk 



ALONG THE FLOOR OF THE OCEAN 

for these deep-sea windows of mine are several inches 
thick. Luckily, our visiting parrot-fish has changed his 
mind, though you'll notice that from where he is busy 
over diere he keeps his eye on us as he bites into the 
trunk of that stony coral post. His eternal appetite has 
stayed his fighting spirit. He is now grubbing for food, 
and to find it he can crack that coral just as a parrot 
breaks a biscuit with his beak. Imbedded in his throat 
is an extra set of molars with which he grinds down his 
diet. 

The brilliant colours of tropical fish are truly a 
source of wonder; but now as you visit the floor of the 
ocean, you can observe these gaudy creatures in their 
natural haunts and understand why they are so highly 
coloured. Here the corals, sea fans, sponges and other 
marine growths fairly glow with colour. Scarlet, crim- 
son, rose-pink, lilac, orange, brilliant yellow, vivid 
greens, blues of every shade, blend and intermingle. 
Against this background, swimming between the corals 
and sponges, the most brilliant of tropical fish blend 
perfectly with their surroundings and change their 
colours to suit the environment of the moment. 



9i 



is fighting himself in the looking-glass" 
fARROT FISH ATTACKING THE WINDOW OF THE PHOTOSPHERE 



Chapter V 

DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

THE term "devil fish" is applied rather indiscrim- 
inately to many inhabitants of the ocean, and often 
is confusing and misleading. The giant oceanic sunfish 
—a moonshaped, tailless, harmless creature — is often 
called devil fish, but the true devil fish is the giant ray 
or "manta." This immense creature resembles the 
common ray or skate in form, but attains enormous 
size, often measuring twelve or fifteen feet across its 
flat body and great wing-like fins. On either side of 
the head are short flexible arms. It is equipped with a 
long, whip-like tail and, with its coal-black upper 
surface and white belly, has such a dangerous, demoniac 
appearance that it has been named devil fish. But 
despite its devilish aspect the manta is a harmless, 
peaceable creature, unless harpooned or captured, 
when its enormous size and strength render it a danger- 
ous antagonist. Normally these giant rays live in 
fairly shallow water, feeding and resting on the bottom 
or swimming about with a peculiar flapping motion 
like gigantic undersea bats. Often, however, they 
amuse themselves by leaping from the sea, springing 

92 



DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

high in the air, flapping their "wings" and falling with 
tremendous splashes. When captured they often resort 
to this high-jumping ability, and, throwing themselves 
up from the sea, crash down on the boat and the luckless 
fishermen. It would be far better if these weird fishes 
were called fish devils rather dian devil fish, for to most 
persons the term devil fish brings visions of the octopus 
or the giant squid. Both are cuttle-fish, cephalopods, 
and are first cousins to the pearly nautilus and the 
argonaut famed in poetry. But they differ widely in 
appearance and habits. The squids have long, cigar- 
shaped bodies, tapering to a point and equipped with 
lateral fins like the horizontal rudders of a submarine. 
They possess ten arms, eight of which are short and 
stout and completely covered with suckers on the 
inner surface, while the other two are very long and 
oar-shaped with suckers only on the broad tips. Like 
the octopus, they propel themselves backward by ejecting 
a stream of water from a tube or siphon between the 
head and body, and, like the octopus, they can eject 
a great quantity of ink or sepia with which to cloud 
the water and enable them to escape from their enemies. 
Small squids are common in all seas, but the giant 
squids, which by the way, form die chief diet of sperm 
whales, are inhabitants of the ocean's great depths. No 
one can say to what enormous size these giant creatures 
may grow, but specimens washed ashore at Newfound- 
land, and figured and described by the late Professor 

93 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

A. E. Verrill, the eminent zoologist of Yale University, 
measured nearly sixty feet from the tip of the tentacles 
to the tail, and weighed several tons each. Dr. Paul 
Bartsch, curator of marine life at the Smithsonian 
Institute, states that the single tentacle of one squid 
found measured sixty feet in length. The spread of this 
creature's outflung tentacles may have been one hundred 
and twenty feet. In the opinion of Dr. Bartsch, such 
great squids skimming just below the surface of the 
sea and making their two longest feelers weave across 
the sea surface, have given rise to the reports of sighting 
giant sea-serpents. Such monsters are true devils of 
the sea and would be terrible menaces to divers and all 
who dared invade their undersea world. Fortunately 
for mankind, however, they seldom rise to the surface 
and are incapable of surviving long except at depths of 
half a mile or more below the surface. The octopus, 
on the other hand, dwells in shallow water everywhere 
in tropical and semi-tropical seas. There are many 
species, ranging in size from a few inches across to 
gigantic monsters; but all are alike in general form and 
habits. Their bodies are round or pear-shaped. They 
have no fins and they possess eight tentacles, all of about 
equal length and all with suckers on the under side 
throughout their entire length. 

Both the squid and the octopus employ their tentacles 
for crawling about and for capturing and holding their 
prey, which is then bitten into fragments by the crea- 

94 



DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

tures' powerful parrot-like beaks. The food of the 
octopus consists mainly of crabs, crayfish and such fish 
as it can capture, but it does not hesitate to attack any 
living diing diat comes within range of its cold, saucer- 
like eyes. This is not because it is courageous, but 
because it possesses practically no brains. Neither does 
its body enclose a skeleton. It is all gristle and pulp, 
yet it has tremendous strength and endurance, and is 
most tenacious of life. Even a small octopus can put up 
a terrific fight as long as it is in the water; but once 
removed from their native element, the creatures soon 
become exhausted. One scientist of my acquaintance, 
who was collecting marine life in the Bermudas, had 
assured his assistants that if an octopus were grasped 
firmly by the neck it would be helpless and would soon 
tire out. A short time afterward the professor was 
collecting in knee-deep water when he caught sight of a 
four-foot octopus retreating into its hole. Leaping 
forward he succeeded in seizing the creature and, to 
demonstrate his theory, he raised the octopus on high, 
firmly grasped at the neck, with the writhing tentacles 
entwining his arm. Suddenly it ejected a stream of ink 
full in the scientist's face. Startled, his eyes blinded and 
smarting, the professor sprang backwards, stumbled, 
and the next moment was floundering in the shallow 
water, struggling madly with the octopus whose 
activity and strength had been trebled the instant it had 
touched water, and whose outflung tentacles had 

95 



DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

encircled its captor's neck. The scientist, however, was 
not one to be worsted by a four-foot cephalopod, and 
he had the courage of his convictions. Not for a moment 
did he release his grip on the creature's neck, and at last, 
regaining his feet, he held the beast at arm's length 
until the tentacles relaxed, the pulpy body sagged, and 
the triumphant scientist dropped his inert captive into a 
collecting receptacle. If a four-foot octopus — a mere 
baby— 'is capable of such a fight, imagine, if you can, 
what a terrible enemy a ten or twenty-foot specimen 
would prove! In most countries where the octopus is 
plentiful, the creatures are considered excellent food, 
and are always found on sale in the fish markets. But 
native fishermen make no attempts to capture their 
prey alive. They deem it safer and surer to spear them, 
or otherwise put them to death: 

From earliest times the octopus has been the theme of 
innumerable thrilling and breath-taking tales of the sea. 
The ancients narrated weirdly terrible stories of the 
"Kraken," a monster of the deep as large as a small 
island, which attacked ships, and with its gigantic arms 
seized upon the masts and drew die vessels down 
beneath the waves where it devoured the members of 
the crew. There is no doubt that the mythical, legend- 
ary Kraken was the giant octopus of fact. Victor 
Hugo in Toilers of the Sea featured the loathsome, 
horrible creature. Jules Verne vividly described a 
ghastly batde with a huge octopus. In the West Indies, 

97 



four-foot octopus is capable of such a fight . . . 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the natives speak in lowered tones of certain bays and 
channels where no man dares to venture after nightfall 
because of giant octopuses that steal forth from their 
undersea lairs, and, crawling up the sides of the vessels, 
seize the terrified crew and drag them down to the 
depths. 

Who dares to say what in these tales is fiction and 
what is fact? Who can safely assert that the Kraken 
was purely a legendary creature? What person, even 
if a matter-of-fact scientist, can positively declare that 
immense octopuses do not attack and destroy human 
beings? Personally, I believe that many such tales are 
true, that they are only slightly exaggerated, if at all. 
For I have seen these monsters of the deep in their 
undersea haunts and know from experience what 
terrible, almost irresistible creatures they are. It is 
impossible even to conjecture what size an octopus may 
attain. Specimens measuring thirty feet from tip to tip 
of tentacles have been captured in the Gulf of Cali- 
fornia. Exact life-sized reproductions of these awful 
monsters may be seen in museums all over the world. 
Against such a devil of the deep, a man would stand 
no chance in a hand-to-hand struggle, yet these are by 
no means the largest individuals of their race. About 
thirty years ago the battered and mutilated remains of 
a stupendous octopus were found washed ashore by a 
storm upon a Florida beach. This immense mass of 
gristle and muscle weighed nearly half a ton, and, 

9 8 



DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

judging from the relative proportions of ordinary 
specimens, this gigantic devil fish must have possessed 
tentacles fully sixty feet in length. Picture, if you can, 
such an indescribably horrible monster. Try to visualize 
that thousand-pound slimy body — pulsing in livid green, 
sickly grey, dull red and mottled corpse-like white — 
widi huge staring green eyes above the sixty-foot 
tentacles armed with thousands of sucker disks as 
large as saucers! Strive to imagine coming upon the 
horrid monster in the depths of the sea, meeting him 
face-to-face lurking behind some coral reef or hidden 
within the black depths of the hold of a sunken ship. 
Think of the terror, the awful paralysing fear of a diver 
coming upon it while seeking to salvage treasure from 
some foundered wreck. Awkward and hampered by 
his diving suit, forced to move slowly, deliberately, 
beneath the water, the diver would stand no chance. 
Before he could signal frantically to be drawn up to the 
surface, if in an ordinary suit, or could release his com- 
pressed air and so rise to the surface, if wearing a self- 
contained suit, one of those huge tentacles would dart 
forth and, like a giant anaconda, wind itself about the 
unfortunate man. Held in the grip of hundreds of great 
suckers, encircled by the coiling tentacles, the diver 
would be as helpless as a rabbit in the grip of a boa 
constrictor. Even if he drew a knife or hatchet and 
chopped savagely with all his strength at the snake-like 
tentacle, his blows would be impotent, for instantly 

99 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

another and another gigantic sucker-clad arm would be 
flung about him. With arms and legs pinioned, unable 
even to struggle, the hapless man would be dragged 
toward those baleful cold orbs, toward the huge black 
beak, opening and closing, its razor-sharp edges whetted 
and ready to shear through garments, flesh and bone, 
to bite deep into his vitals, to devour him alive! No 
power could save him. The most desperate efforts of 
his fellows to drag him to the surface would be of no 
avail. The thousand-pound body, anchored securely 
by its tentacles, would be as immovable as the bottom 
of the ocean itself. The awed and terrified men above 
would never know, might never even suspect, his fate. 
The parted life-line and air tube would be mute evidence 
of some tragedy beneath the sea. A dull red stain 
rising to the surface, and bubbles frothy with blood 
would tell the anxious, white-faced watchers that their 
comrade had met with some tragic end. But the chances 
are they would think he had been killed by sharks, 
never suspecting, never dreaming that a living terror 
lurked amid the shadowy deep under the keel of their 
boat. 

Many a diver has vanished for ever under the sea. 
Many a vessel has disappeared with never a trace when 
no raging storm lashed the sea to fury, when no reef 
or rock was near. Who can say that these mysteries of 
the sea, these unexplained tragedies, were not brought 
about by gigantic devil fish, veritable Krakens ? Because 

ioo 



DEVIL FISH AND FISH DEVILS 

no one has actually seen such a monster of the deep does 
not prove that they do not exist. Only by a real miracle 
could a human being see such a creature and live to tell 
the talc. And we know from positive and indisputable 
evidence that such gigantic and fearsome beings do 
exist somewhere in the ocean's depths. But no sixty- 
foot octopus is needed to prove a deadly, a terrible 
menace to humans who invade the realm beneath the 
sea, and strive to wrest the secrets of the ocean from 
Father Neptune. A thirty-foot devil fish, even an 
octopus with ten-foot tentacles would prove capable of 
overpowering and destroying the strongest, bravest 
man. And such creatures do exist, not in the unfathom- 
able depths of the ocean, not as rare, isolated individuals, 
but by scores in comparatively shallow water. I have 
seen many of these horrible creatures during my 
twenty years under the sea. Filled with a strange 
fascination, combined with indescribable loathing, I 
have watched these devils of the sea in their native 
haunts. I have seen them seize, kill and devour their 
prey, and although safely ensconced behind the thick 
glass of my window, I have never been able to over- 
come a feeling of dread, of instinctive fear, at the sight 
of these eight-armed demons. A man-eating shark, a 
giant poison-fanged moray, a murderous barracuda, 
appear harmless, innocent, friendly and even attractive, 
when compared to the octopus. No words can ade- 
quately describe the sickening terror one feels when 

IOI 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

from some dark mysterious lair, the great lidless eyes 
of the octopus stare at one. People speak of the cold 
eyes of fishes, of the cruel, baleful eyes of sharks, but in 
all creation there are no eyes like those of the octopus. 
They are everything that is horrible. Dead eyes. The 
eyes of a corpse through which the demon peers forth, 
unearthly, expressionless, yet filled with such bestial 
malignancy that one's very soul seems to shrink beneath 
their gaze, and cold perspiration beads the brow. And 
in their cold green depths lies hypnotic power. As a 
long, writhing tentacle stretches forth, its tip waving 
about feeling for a grip, the hapless victim seems 
paralysed, powerless to move. Not until the awful 
arms have twined themselves about his body and the 
great suckers have fastened themselves immovably in 
place, is the spell broken. 

And then it is too late to struggle or resist! 



102 



Chapter VI 



UNDER PRESSURE 



THE one and only rime I ever felt big and important 
was the first time I slipped into the ocean dressed 
in a diving suit. It may have been the hot half-hour 
preceding my immersion as I sat on the deck of the 
diving boat under a tropical sun while they bolted and 
screwed me into the ponderous lead-weighted costume, 
heavier by pounds than I myself; but whatever it was, 
I could have sworn that someone, and a big fellow at 
that, was sitting on my neck as I staggered over the 
ladder and into the sea. However, once past the zero 
line that separates air from water, I blew up to bigness. 
I was as light as a feather. My glide to the sea floor 
was a streamline experience; and though each of my 
shoes was soled with sixteen pounds of lead, I found I 
could stride like a giant in seven-league boots. 

Every foot you descend adds a half-pound more to 
the pressure on every square inch of you, so at thirty 
feet down you are bearing the squeeze of another whole 
atmosphere; and that is how it goes doubling, trebling, 
and so on until you reach bottom, wherever that is. 
Your body accepts the change quite readily. The 

103 



UNDER PRESSURE 

pressure slips into your blood and tissues, it is air pres- 
sure which die pumps are forcing all through you. 
You are just like a motor car tire, and you are pumped 
up to, and over, the pressure around you. But there is 
one part of the anatomy — of mine in particular — that 
resents with a vengeance the injection of air pressure: 
die ear drums. Yet, apart from the stinging pressure 
and the subsequent "singing of crickets' ' in the ears for 
weeks, it is thrilling to get down to the sea-bed and lean 
to the current; to be a fully armoured diver in regulation 
costume, even as an amateur. 

My initiation into diving came suddenly while pro- 
ducing one of my deep-sea dramas, "The Submarine 
Eye." The plot centred about the contents of a safe 
which had gone overboard when being conveyed to a 
ship during a storm at sea. In the story the diver 
descends to the ocean's floor, locates the safe which 
has fallen over on its back in the debris, pries open the 
heavy door and, bending over, prepares to extract the 
strong-box. Just as he is about to raise it, the massive 
door drops, pinning his hands, holding him as in a vise, 
where he struggles and writhes hour after hour, gradu- 
ally weakening, gradually facing a terrible death 
beneath the sea, until, at the last moment, he is rescued 
by a native diver. When I was ready for the scene 
the diver who was to salvage the contents of the safe, 
was suddenly incapacitated, and I had no one else 
available to act the part convincingly. I had written 

105 



AUTHOR AT WORK IN A CORAL GARDEN 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the story myself and wanted "perfect" results. There 
was but one solution: to act the scene myself. So, 
leaving my camera man in the undersea studio after 
working out a system of signals with him, I donned a 
diving suit and was lowered to the bottom of the sea 
beside the safe. Needless to say, the safe had been 
prepared for the scene. Apertures large enough to 
admit a man's hands had been cut in the edge of the 
door jamb, and these had been covered with flat rubber 
bands, so that they were invisible and would not show 
in the picture. But I found they were so well con- 
cealed that I could not even see them myself, and so I 
was obliged to resort to the sense of touch for finding 
where to place my hands when the door slammed shut. 
As I could not interrupt the action by stopping to feel 
about once the camera was started, I rehearsed the 
whole scene carefully and was ready to go ahead with 
the filming of it the following day. Once more I 
dropped through the water, clad in my diving regalia. 
Once again I approached the shell-encrusted safe. 
Slowly I walked about it, examining it, knocking the 
accumulation of marine growths from its surface and 
door while the camera clicked away behind the window 
of the photosphere. Inserting my crowbar in the edge 
of the door, I prised. The lid slowly opened. Dropping 
the bar, I raised the massive door high, and, leaning 
forward, reached within the safe for the precious strong- 
box. Now came the great moment. I was as tense with 

1 06 



UNDER PRESSURE 

excitement as though I were really living the scene. 
Straightening up, I moved to position, ready to give 
the open door the jar necessary to make it close. And 
then — the film recorded just what happened — a shark 
flashed into the scene and out again, so close that the 
force of its passage through the water may have caused 
the heavy iron door to fall unexpectedly; at all events, 
before I had time to place my hands in the rubber-lined 
apertures, it shut ! Faint with the shock of it, I found 
my hands held fast under its edge. I was pinioned, 
incapable of signalling to the crew above, unable even 
to let the camera man know of my predicament, for 
my signals were to be given with my hands. The shark 
had brought realism to the scene with a vengeance. 
I was trapped exactly as the diver of the story had been 
trapped! Sweat trickled down my forehead into my 
eyes. Then I realized that the camera was recording 
everything. I must give it action. My hands did not 
seem to be seriously injured; at least I hoped not. I had 
no need to worry about being rescued. In the story 
the trapped diver struggled for hours, but such lapse 
of time had no place in the actual filming. The native 
diver who was to come to my rescue had instructions 
to appear in less than ten minutes. With this cheering 
thought I instantly began to struggle and strain. I had 
no need to act the part. I could feel every bit of it. 
And never have I known greater relief, greater joy, 
than when the black diver came swimming down, 

107 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

picked up the bar, pried open the safe door and released 
my numbed hands and wrists. Needless to say, the 
pictures of that scene were realism itself. 

It is a topsy-turvy world, this realm of the diver. 
What means something of vital importance to the man 
up above may mean nothing at all to the man in the 
suit down below. A humorous experience of mine 
will explain this. 

The sky was overcast and we were busy on some of 
our painstaking preparations before "shoo ting* ' a 
scene. I had gone down in a diving suit to do some 
special work on an old wreck. For picture purposes 
I wanted it to look even more ancient and battered. 
I wanted it matted with sea growth and in every detail 
to give the impression of having remained there for 
many years. 

To obtain this result I chose to do a great deal of the 
work myself. I was getting along gloriously. I had 
no idea how long I had been down. There is a certain 
feeling of exhilaration that blots out all thought of the 
passage of time. You simply have no sense of time. 

So it was with mingled surprise and irritation that I 
felt diree sharp jerks on the life-line. This is the sign 
to come up at once. No argument. To respect this 
signal was imperative. Though my work was almost 
completed, and I was anxious to finish it, I answered 
the signal and immediately they started to pull me up. 
Soon I reached the diving ladder, and climbed out of 

108 



"It is a topsy-turvy world, this realm of a divefl 
AN UNDERSEAS EXPLORER INVESTIGATES AN OLD WRECK 



\ 










IX 



\ 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the sea. As my helmeted head rose above the surface, 
I heard a sharp patter, a tattoo on my helmet that 
sounded to me like riveting. 

"What's the matter?" I asked as soon as my helmet 
was opened. 
It s raining ! 

"Raining! What do I care about that," I yelled. 
"Screw up my face-plate, I'm going down again." 

Then I realized, as I looked round at my half-drowned 
assistants that while I stood there perfectly dry inside 
my diving suit, a tropical rain-squall was pelting them 
unmercifully. 

Another time, the unforeseen gave me some nerve- 
torturing moments that have never been equalled 
during my twenty years of adventures beneadi the sea. 

I was directing the undersea scenes of another of my 
own film productions, "Girl of the Sea." Its story was 
my own. I had an excellent diver who doubled for the 
hero, and, seated in the chamber of my photosphere 
with my camera man cranking beside me, I looked out 
at this diver at work among the ruins of a gruesome and 
rotting old vessel on the floor of the sea. He was 
making his way laboriously along the slanting deck of 
the wreck. Reaching a cabin door, he forced it open 
and reeled back into a shower of bubbles from his 
helmet. There, on the slimy floor, revealed by a flood 
of light from above, was a human skeleton. Projecting 
from between the ribs where they joined the spine was 

no 



UNDER PRESSURE 

the handle of a murderous knife. Upon one bony 
finger was a curious antique ring. The entire plot of 
the story hinged upon the diver's recovery of the 
ring and die knife. But it seemed difficult for diis man, 
locked in a diving suit — a grotesque and unwieldy 
outfit — to put into convincing action the intimate 
details of the scene. His action up to the point of the 
close-ups had been splendid, but here he was fumbling 
the knife and the ring out of line with the camera. 
Again and again the action was repeated, and each time 
it was worse dian before. At last, realizing that it was 
hopeless to expect satisfactory results in this way, I 
decided to do the close-ups myself. Hurrying to the 
surface, for we had wasted much valuable time already, 
I seized upon the first suit at hand, an old one, long 
unused, which had recently come from the storehouse 
ashore. Dropping into the sea, I changed places with 
the diver. I was alone in die pale-green depths. No 
sound, other than the throb of the air-valves, broke the 
death-like silence. Despite the fact that I knew every 
detail of the eerie spot, despite the fact that I had planned 
it all, I felt awed, tense with nerves on edge, exactly as I 
had imagined the man whose part I was acting, should 
feel. Sinking to my knees, I reached for the handle of 
the knife. As I did so, a spotted moray wormed its 
sinuous way between the legs of the skeleton, arousing 
all my loathing for those snaky creatures, and I recoiled 
in horror. Nor was I acting. I was the man of the part, 

in 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

though dread and hatred of creeping things rather than 
the grinning skull and disintegrating human bones 
actuated my sensations and movements. Cautiously I 
withdrew the knife, and, moving closer, I lifted the 
skeleton hand to remove the ring from the dead man's 
finger. At this tense, exciting moment something 
indescribably hideous happened! 

Inside my copper helmet I felt something moving! 
Something was crawling — creeping through my hair. 
I was paralysed with the horror of it. I wanted to tear 
the helmet from my head; yet, in the midst of my terror 
at the thing now moving with pin-pointed feet down 
my forehead, was the driving thought that I must not 
—could not — spoil the film; that no matter what, I 
must go on. Now the fearsome thing was crawling 
over my left eye, down my nose, I could see it! My 
hair seemed to stand on end. I felt cold all over. The 
thing was a scorpion! In mental torture I controlled a 
desire to dash my head against the inside of the helmet 
and try to crush the venomous creature. But I knew 
that at the slightest movement it might bury its poison- 
ous sting in my flesh — even in my eye. Though I 
might crush it, it still could blind or wound me in its 
death throes. No, I must be cool, must control myself. 
With unspeakable relief I felt the creature crawl back 
into my hair. Irritating, maddening, loathsome as it 
was, it had not harmed me. If undisturbed, it might 
remain peaceably inclined until I reached the surface 

112 



UNDER PRESSURE 

and the helmet could be removed. And all this time, 
while my mind was numb with dread of the scorpion 
imprisoned in my helmet, I was going through with 
my part, acting out the scene, while the cameras clicked 
away and the operators marvelled at the vivid realism 
of my acting, little dreaming that it was a scorpion in 
my helmet diat was filling me with the emotions I was 
exhibiting. 

Only twenty minutes had elapsed between the time 
when I was lowered to the old wreck and when I was 
drawn to the surface, but to me the time seemed years, 
ages, an eternity. 

When at last the helmet was lifted and I told my 
story, I was greeted with questioning looks from my 
men. There was no sign of a scorpion anywhere! 
Nothing, however, would convince me that this awful 
creature had been a figment of an overwrought mind. 
It had been far too vivid, too real, even for a night- 
mare. I examined the interior of the helmet. Nothing 
there. Then I had a sudden inspiration. From the 
air-tube at the back of the helmet several flat channels 
lead in various directions, their purpose being to 
distribute the air throughout the helmet instead of 
rushing it in at one place. And when a blast of air was 
forced through these channels, out came the scorpion. 

To this day I do not know how I escaped being 
stung. One naturalist to whom I related the story 
expressed the opinion that in all probability the scorpion 

1*3 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

was affected by the air pressure, and, drugged and half 
torpid from the unusual conditions, was practically 
harmless at the time. But whatever the explanation, it 
taught me a lesson — never to put on a diving suit that 
had been stored away, without proper examination first. 

If confusion can result in the system of signalling to 
divers with lifelines and air-pipes while they are sub- 
merged, the difficulty multiplies when the divers you 
wish to direct are off on a stroll over the wide sea-floor 
in self-contained suits with no kind of connection; free 
men of the under-sea, out on their own. 

In the filming of Jules Verne's wonder story, Twenty 
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, I was beset with such 
difficulties. I could communicate with my divers only 
by means of a few possible signals — a deaf-and-dumb 
language. But at the very end came an astounding 
discovery. 

Already most of the company had left for their homes 
in the United States and the divers who had "made" 
the photoplay under the sea were impatient, chafing 
also to be off. I had told them I reckoned on their 
getting through in time to sail on that day's boat. 
They assembled below the sea for their final act. As 
they stood there awaiting the signal to begin I thought 
longingly, as I had a hundred times before, of the 
advantages of working in a land studio where one 
could talk to the actors and shout instructions to meet 
changing conditions. They kept changing this day. 

114 



UNDER PRESSURE 



Again and again the signal was given to start. Again 
and again something went wrong, and all had to be done 



over acrain. 



The divers were growing increasingly impatient, 
more and more disgusted with having to serve as movie 
actors; more and more anxious to finish their work, 
swap diving suits for ordinary clothes, board the 
steamer, and head for New York. But the scene must 
be taken or the thousands of feet of precious film — all 
our months of work, and a fortune in expenditure — 
would be as good as thrown away. And then, faintly, 
through the water came the unmistakable sound of the 
steamer's farewell whistle. For an instant the divers 
stood tense. They had missed the boat! Then sud- 
denly, unexpectedly, amazingly, a human voice broke 
through the silence of the oceans depths. 

"Hey, Crilley, there goes your boat!" 

Clear and distinct as if in the open air came the words 
in Jack Gardner's voice. I gazed at the diver unbeliev- 
ingly. Was it possible? Was — but before I could 
frame die question, "The hell you say," exclaimed 
Crilley. "And my wife's on board." The next minute 
the water was filled with excited voices, with expletives 
as the divers, suddenly and miraculously having dis- 
covered they could converse, gathered in a group and 
shouted and talked to one another. They were like 
deaf mutes with voice and hearing suddenly restored ! 

Gardner had solved the problem. He had made an 

1X 5 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

epochal discovery. And like so many epochal discoveries 
it had been made accidentally. Impatient at delay, 
chafing under the restraint, he had sought to ease his 
mind by ragging Crilley. He had removed the breath- 
ing tube of nis self-contained suit from his lips and 
had spoken, taking a chance on breathing the foul air 
in his helmet. It was simple, so easy, that no one had 
thought of it before. No, not even marvellously clever, 
imaginative, far-seeing Jules Verne himself had found a 
way to permit his characters to converse when encased 
in chemical diving suits under the sea. Now that the 
discovery had been made, other discoveries followed 
rapidly. Not only could the divers converse beneath 
the sea; even when seated in my under-sea chamber I 
could hear them talking. Their voices came plainly to 
my ears through the thick steel walls of the photosphere. 
Obviously, water was a better conductor of sound than 
air. In all my underseas experience, I had never felt 
more thrilled, more elated, than on that memorable 
day when Gardner's voice broke the vast silence of the 
green-lit depths. However, I could not help bitterly 
regretting that the discovery had not been made months 
earlier. What difficulties might have been avoided ! 

The voice from the deep recalled to me the thoughts 
of Jules Verne's own characters as they strolled through 
the great under-seas, bursting to express in words their 
pent-up enthusiasm at the wonders and marvels un- 
folding before them. 

116 



UNDER PRESSURE 

"Why could I not communicate ?" exclaimed 
Professor Arronax. "For aught I knew Captain Nemo 
and his companions might be able to exchange thoughts 
by means of signs previously agreed upon. So for want 
of better, I talked to myself. There was nothing 
wanting but the charm of conversation; but impossible 
to speak, impossible to answer, I could only put my great 
copper head close to my companions/ ' 

Strangely enough it was Gardner who had imper- 
sonated Professor Arronax in that very scene. 

Perhaps it was Jules Verne himself, sending sugges- 
tions from the beyond, striving to help us, who had 
brought his great work to realization in our film. 



"7 



Chapter VII 

PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

AS surely as undersea movies followed my first 
still photographs, we were destined to film Jules 
Verne's world-famous story, Twenty Thousand Leagues 
Under the Sea. This golden opportunity presented it- 
self immediately after I had startled the world with the 
magic of motion pictures from the bottom of the sea. 

You will have to get back to Broadway — the Broad- 
way of 191 5 — to feel the public enthusiasm that was 
carrying us along to success in the rising industry of 
moving pictures. 

Growing with us was something of even greater 
moment — the distant rumblings of the World War. 
The United States was two years away from it, yet 
close enough for the public to begin to sense the 
terrible menace of one of the outstanding features of 
the war, the deadly submarine. Death was stalking 
beneath the sea; striking from the dark. Stark tragedy 
was being enacted thousands of miles away, yet close 
enough to fire the imagination of the most blase 
Broadwayite. 

But in spite of such shocking revelations, Broadway 

118 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

was Broadway. It takes more than a war to quench 
the spirit of the show world. Entertainment is carried 
to the front-line trenches. In periods of unrest and un- 
certainty, diversion, bringing laughter and tears, affords 
a relief, a safety valve. Regardless of the horror and 
tragedy it was producing daily, there were elements of 
romance in this submarine warfare. There was the 
sport of the hunter and the hunted. To expose it 
would be a hit! 

And there we were with the answer, Jules Verne's 
master story right in our hands. We were in on the 
news. Doubly blessed, we were right on Broadway, with 
"The Williamson Submarine Expedition" which, 
while it gave only a peep into the wonders and mys- 
teries of the deep, was a revelation and sensational 
entertainment. With the Jules Verne story dominated 
by the fascinating Captain Nemo we could go on into 
the depths — to the bottom of the ocean. 

It was great to be in on such a boom, to be able to 
give the public what it wanted, a real photoplay, a 
human drama, different from our current picture which 
had no plot, no story— just the drift of a unique expedi- 
tion. Now we could play human emotions against the 
throbbing background of the mysterious undersea world. 

To vindicate Verne, the dreamer, was my problem 
as I set out to supervise the production of the picture — to 
make Jules Verne's dream come true. But where were 
the unique and extraordinary props ? 

119 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

For our venture we needed a submarine to represent 
the Nautilus, a ship for the Abraham Lincoln, a yacht to 
be torpedoed, submarine guns to be used in hunting 
game in the coral jungles under the sea, and of vital 
importance, diving suits which would enable men to 
wander over the sea-floor without life-lines, air-tubes or 
other connection with the surface. 

It is odd how we find what we seek. I had scarcely 
started my search when I learned from a chance-met 
veteran diver that suits such as I needed were being 
manufactured in England, and, better still, that a repre- 
sentative of the manufacturer was at that very time at 
the Brooklyn Navy Yard, instructing naval divers in 
the use of these suits. I lost no time in getting in touch 
with the agent, and inviting him with Chief Gunner 
Stillson, who was conducting the diving school, to 
dine with me, I explained the situation. The result was 
that within two days all details had been arranged, 
fifteen suits had been ordered and, with the co-operation 
of the Navy Department, I had engaged a number of 
the best divers in the United States to sail with me for 
the Bahama Islands within a month. 

In the meantime I was racking my brain and con- 
ferring with arms experts regarding undersea guns. 
But here I drew a blank. I decided then to tackle the 
problem of the submarine boat. That, I felt, would be 
easy. There was no mystery, no lack of information, 
on that subject. No doubt there were plenty of obsolete 

120 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

submarines knocking about that would serve as the 
Nautilus. But my confidence was soon punctured. 
I found it impossible to get hold of a submarine. 
There was not on the market one in which the most 
foolhardy would risk his life. With war raging and 
German U-boats combing the seas the Navy would no 
more think of lending a submarine, no matter how out 
of date, than of lending a first-class battleship. So much 
for being "in the news." Having failed to get the 
submarine, I determined to try my luck on something 
really easy; procuring an old tub to do duty as the 
frigate Abraham Lincoln, and an out-of-date yacht to be 
sacrificed to the vengeance of Captain Nemo. 

Ships and yachts there were a-plenty. The wartime 
demand for anything that would float had not yet 
arisen. None, however, would serve my purpose, for all 
lacked one most important feature. Many were old, 
but not old enough. Jules Verne's story had been 
written fifty years earlier and in fifty years maritime 
modes, ships' hulls, rigging and details had undergone 
much change. Yet the frigate and the yacht of my 
picture must both bear the earmarks of an era fifty 
years gone by. At last, after an almost endless search, 
I found an old brig which, with alterations, might 
serve as the Abraham Lincoln. By sheer good luck, also, 
I came upon a long-unused yacht that might have been 
a sister ship of the vessel we needed. Fortune seemed to 
smile again. I was as tickled as a cat with two tails. 

121 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

With the divers, the frigate and the yacht in readiness, 
we were all ready to sail for the Bahamas. Among the 
divers was a young fellow of average height, and with 
no evidence of great strength and stamina, Frank 
Crilley. Crilley was later to be acknowledged as a 
master of his profession, with a record of 315 feet 
below the surface. He was to make this record within 
the month, nearly 6,000 miles from where I expected 
him to be working for me. 

Here again Fate stepped in and wrecked my plans 
for the time being. The United States submarine 
"F-4 " went to the bottom at Hawaii. All but two of 
my divers were members of the United States Navy, 
and were immediately ordered to the scene of the 
tragedy. There I was, with fifteen costly self-contained 
diving-suits on my hands and only two divers with which 
to fill them. These two were Jack Gardner and Chin 
Chin, who had had some experience with self-contained 
diving-suits in the British Navy. Through them I 
learned of another experienced chemical diver, Tuck, 
who was in the Gulf of Mexico salvaging a wreck. To 
be sure, I needed fifteen men, but three were better than 
none, and I felt sure that among the expert swimmers 
and divers of the West Indies I could recruit volunteers 
who could be instructed in the use of these special suits. 
I was still minus a submarine and undersea guns, but 
had come to the conclusion that the only way to obtain 
a submarine was to build one, and that I should somehow 

122 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

solve the problem of the guns. I should also need a 
balloon to be used in that part of the story we were 
borrowing from The Mysterious Island — sequel to 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — to build up 
the story. But that didn't trouble me — not at this time. 
My province was beneath the sea, not above it. It 
would be a simple matter, I thought, to hire a balloonist 
and to film the ascension when the need arose. 

There was nothing to keep me longer in New York, so 
with my crew and equipment I set sail for the Bahamas, 
having cabled the diver, Tuck, to meet me there. 

Reaching the Bahamas, I found no difficulty in 
finding volunteers to act the part of Nemo's crew and, 
with my three professional divers, I started a school to 
instruct them in the use of the self-contained suits. 
These diving-suits were of two types: complete suits 
covering the entire body, and " escape' ' suits which 
enclose only the head and upper portion of the body. 
In the escape suit there is nothing to keep the water 
out other than the air contained in the helmet, which 
becomes so compressed that it holds the water back at 
the region of the diver's chin. When bending forward 
or sideways, the breathing-tube must be kept between 
the diver's teeth to prevent the water from wetting the 
dangerous charge. 

On the morning of our first demonstration and 
lesson for the benefit of the dozen promising young 
native pupils who were grouped about, pop-eyed with 

123 



Jr 












A 



I 




\ 



I 



»i 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

interest, Gardner put on a full suit and Tuck donned 
an escape suit. In the scenes which were to be filmed, 
it would be necessary for Tuck to struggle and tumble 
about, and I wanted him to get familiar with the new 
type of suit and to become accustomed to having water 
sloshing about his mouthpiece inside his helmet. I 
explained everything to him, warning him to be 
careful and pointing out the danger of letting the 
breathing-tube slip from his mouth. 

The twelve local pupils listened and watched intently. 
They were all expert swimmers and at home in the 
water, but the sight of these odd diving-suits with their 
glistening metal fittings filled them with excitement. 
They were eager for a chance to put on the suits and 
walk the bottom of the sea with the professionals. As 
Tuck started to descend, I suggested that he use a life- 
line. This he declined to do. It was evident he con- 
sidered himself too much of a professional diver to take 
precautions like an amateur. A moment later he 
disappeared under the sea. I did not expect him back 
within a half-hour as his chemical charge was good for 
an hour, unless he struggled too vigorously and by 
breathing heavily should shorten the life of the chemical. 
I had complete confidence in him, and busied myself 
with Gardner and the others. 

Some fifteen minutes later a shout from an onlooker 
interrupted our work and, gazing seaward, we saw 
Tuck on the surface, floundering about. Was something 

125 



HREE DIVERS- 
JACK GARDNER, THE AUTHOR AND FRANK CRILLEY 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

wrong? There was no scene that called for a diver 
struggling on top of the sea. With my company doctor, 
his instruments and a pulmotor which I had fortunately 
provided, I leaped into a boat and pulled frantically for 
the struggling man. As we dragged him from the sea 
and opened his face-plate, a cloud of blue smoke poured 
from his helmet. Stripping off his suit we were horri- 
fied to find him unconscious, his face a ghastly black. 
For a moment we thought him dead, but found that 
his heart still beat. After twenty minutes of strenuous 
effort to revive him, he started to regain consciousness, 
raving in delirium about seeing "beautiful ladies" and 
that everything was "beautiful and blue." I knew then 
that he was coming out of it. It had been a close call 
and only Tuck's presence of mind had saved him. 
Before putting on the suit he had neglected to clean the 
breathing-tube round the mouthpiece, and in turning 
about in the water, a tiny granule of oxylithe which 
had lodged on the tube under his lip had become wet 
and had burned into his flesh like mqlten lead. The 
excruciating pain had caused him to spit the tube out 
of his mouth. Instantly the water rushed into the 
oxylithe and the deadly gas from the chemical filled 
the helmet. Choking and rapidly losing consciousness 
he yet kept his head, forcing his brain and hands to 
action, realizing that his one hope was to reach the 
surface of the sea and the air. Fumbling blindly, he 
had striven to open the taps of his emergency tanks of 

126 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

compressed air, one of which would fill his lifebelt, 
while the other would inflate his suit and cause him to 
rise. He could not open the valves, however, because 
by now he was on the verge of unconsciousness. Only 
the primal instinct for self-preservation burned in his 
reeling brain. Automatically his fingers tore at the 
weighted belt around his waist, and released it. With 
a desperate effort he managed to take off one of his 
lead-soled shoes. This saved his life, for the release of 
its weight, together with that of the lead-weighted 
belt, made him just buoyant enough to float away from 
the bottom. The last he remembered was trying to 
remove the other shoe, and this is what he must have 
been doing when we first saw him at the surface. 

Tuck was saved, but we lost all of our diving pupils. 
When the excitement of the rescue was over, the local 
talent were nowhere to be seen. They had vanished, 
never to return. 

Fortunately, as it turned out, I did not need them. 
By the time I was ready for the big scenes, I had 
obtained the services of expert Navy divers, among 
them Chief Gunner Stillson. 

Once the problem of divers and self-contained suits 
was solved, I took up that of the undersea guns. After 
many experiments we discovered that ordinary firearms 
could be used beneath the sea. We selected Springfield 
army rifles, using wax plugs in place of bullets. When 
fired under water, black gas belched from the muzzle 

127 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

of the gun, giving the exact effect of smoke, while air 
bubbles appeared to mark the path of the bullet. 
, There was still the biggest problem of all — that of 
the submarine. There was only one way to get the 
craft, and that was to build it. Here my training in 
marine engineering would serve me well. 

But as I started on this task, Fate dealt another blow. 
The yacht purchased in New York had not arrived. 
At last came word that the crew employed to bring it 
to the Bahamas had beached the vessel on an unfre- 
quented section of the Carolina coast and had stripped 
it of everything of value. Quantities of equipment, 
props and vital supplies had been pirated; the yacht 
itself was a total loss. I prevailed upon my brother to 
take some of our trusted seamen and search the Florida 
coast for another yacht. None suitable was to be found 
between Jacksonville and Key West. At last we were 
forced to purchase a vessel that might be rebuilt to 
conform to our needs. She, too, nearly came to grief 
on her way down, but eventually she reached Nassau 
in safety; and we proceeded to rebuild the staunch craft. 
Bow and stern were extended. The sheer line was 
altered, new masts and a funnel were added, and when 
completed we had a yacht which would have fooled 
any nautical expert. Yet I sighed when I saw the bill 
for the alterations. To replace and to age the lost yacht 
had cost $25,000. 
Meanwhile, the submarine was rapidly taking form 

128 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

and substance. When completed she was well over 
ioo feet in length, and she can best be described by 
quoting from Jules Verne's account of the Nautilus. 

"It was an elongated cylinder with conical ends, very 
like a cigar in shape . . . with iron plates slightly over- 
laying each other, resembling the shells which close the 
bodies of large terrestrial reptiles. . . . The steel plates 
were held together by thousands of rivets . . . .Fore 
and aft arose two cages with inclined sides partly closed 
by thick lenticular glasses; one destined for the steers- 
man; the other containing a brilliant lantern to light the 
road. Midway of the hull was a platform surrounded 
by a rail whereon we stood, and which was reached by 
a stairway and an iron door." 

Unlike Captain Nemo's Nautilus, my submarine 
could be controlled entirely by one man. By filling 
tanks with water it could be submerged. By emptying 
them it could be raised to the surface, and it could be 
steered to port or starboard or manoeuvred generally 
by the single operator. Moreover, in addition to the 
air lock by which Captain Nemo and his men left the 
Nautilus to wander upon the floor of the ocean, my 
Nautilus was equipped with torpedo tubes. 

The launching took place without a hitch and when 
everything was complete I invited the Governor of the 
Bahamas to be present at the tests. Accompanied by 
his A.D.C. and the Chief of Police, in full uniform and 
regalia, His Excellency inspected the boat. As I had 

129 



If 



PRODUCTION NUMBER TWO 

never put it to an actual test, I was not at all certain how 
this strange craft might behave. I knew it could be 
submerged, but I was not so confident that it could be 
raised to the surface with entire success at the first 
attempt. To keep the vessel on an even keel beneath 
the sea was one thing, but to gauge the ballast tanks to 
such a nicety that the vessel would bob to the surface 
right side up was another matter. All of this I ex- 
plained to our distinguished guests. 

Ordinarily I planned to handle the Nautilus myself, 
but on this occasion I trusted her to Jack Gardner, who 
was clad in a diving-suit as a precautionary measure. All 
was going well. Fascinated, the Governor and his 
party watched the shining hull as it broke through the 
surface like a mammoth whale. Off the riveted plates 
the sea water poured miniature cataracts. Up rose the 
railed platform, up came the rounded cigar-shaped hull. 
And then! Cries of dismay came from the spectators. 
Wildly the craft rolled. It heeled far to one side, in 
imminent danger of turning turtle and drowning the 
man within, who would be caught like a rat in a trap. 
My heart was in my mouth. My exhibition seemed 
about to end in tragedy. Everyone was excited and 
shouting. And then slowly, smoothly, the Nautilus 
rolled back and came to rest at an even keel. 

I saw the Governor slap the Chief of Police on the 
back, and heard him exclaim: " By Jove, these motion 
picture fellows, you can't baffle them, you know." 

131 



She ivas well over one hundred feet in length" 

APTAIN NEMO'S "NAUTILUS" IN "20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA' 



Chapter VIII 

THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

AT last all seemed ready. We could now begin the 
actual filming of Jules Verne's marvellous tale. 
I had divers, diving suits, the rebuilt yacht, undersea 
guns, the submarine and the Abraham Lincoln. This old 
brig had been completely transformed. She had been 
re-rigged with the huge single topsails and heavy spars 
of a frigate of Civil War days. A funnel rose above her 
decks, along her sides were gun ports and on her deck 
she carried real guns. 

I had gone over every scene in the story with the 
utmost care. I thought that everything needed for each 
scene was on hand, except one — and this one perhaps 
the punch of the whole film, the big smashing thrill of 
the entire drama: the desperate battle between divers 
and a giant octopus. 

Herein lay my greatest problem. I could hire divers. 
I could build submarines. I could reconstruct vessels 
to conform to a period half a century earlier, but — how 
was I to procure a giant octopus to take part in the 
story? And even if I found one, should I be able to 
induce any of my divers to risk their lives in a hand-to- 

132 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

hand struggle with the monster? But I decided not to 
worry over the matter. Octopuses were in their dens 
among the coral reefs and the old wrecks of the West 
Indies. Somewhere, I hoped, my searchers would find 
a giant of his kind — the father of all octopuses, and it 
shouldn't be difficult to get him into the picture once 
he had been located if a diver could be induced to offer 
himself as bait. At any rate that particular scene could 
wait. We had plenty to occupy us for months ahead. 
By the time we were ready for the battle with the 
octopus, the problem might solve itself. 

Accordingly, preparations were made to film the 
first episode in Jules Verne's tale, the ramming of the 
Abraham Lincoln by the Nautilus. It was not such smooth 
sailing as I had thought it would be. My Nautilus did 
not possess the great "iron spur" that Captain Nemo 
had provided on his submarine. He might ram a frigate 
with ease, "passing through it like a needle through 
sackcloth/ ' but for me to drive my submarine into the 
hull of the tough old brig might result in the destruction 
of the undersea boat, with perhaps no great damage to 
the old-fashioned warship we were supposed to destroy. 

No, we must manage to give the effect of ramming 
the ship without actually doing so. And now a new 
and unforeseen difficulty arose. Jules Verne wrote in 
describing the scene on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, 
"A fearful shock followed, and, thrown over the rail 
without having time to stop myself, I fell into the sea." 

133 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

A realistic description, for a vessel struck by Captain 
Nemo's steel-spurred submarine would surely receive 
a " fearful shock." She would heel far over, and if 
our picture was to be convincing, our Abraham Lincoln 
must also heel to the blow and register a "fearful 
shock." Just how to bring this about was a puzzle. 
Then, some brilliant genius in the company had an 
inspiration. He suggested that by placing water-filled 
barrels on the deck and rolling these in unison to one 
side of the ship at a given signal, she could be made to 
list heavily. This appeared to be a solution of the 
difficulty, and we decided to try it overnight. A local 
rum importer was found who was willing to loan us 
the necessary barrels. Laboriously they were placed on 
board. Fifty men sweated like navvies filling them with 
water dipped in bucketfuls from the sea. At last, weary, 
with aching backs and tired muscles, the men had 
filled them all and placed them on greased runways. 
Just then the owner of the barrels appeared, informing 
us that he had immediate need of them, and demanded 
their return at once. Our words might well have caused 
the paint on the Abraham Lincoln to shrivel and blister. 
But I had had about enough of the scheme. By now a 
survey of the whole plan had convinced me that it 
would not work. All of those thousands of gallons of 
water had to be emptied back into the sea and the 
empty barrels returned to their owner. 
Again I read and re-read my copy of Twenty Thousand 

134 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

Leagues Under the Sea y trying to find a way out. At last 
I had it! In the story the frigate fired at the Nautilus 
from a distance, the first shot missing the submarine 
the second striking it, but glancing off. According to 
the story, it was not until hours later when Ned Land 
attempted to harpoon the supposed leviathan, diat 
Captain Nemo lost his patience and rammed the ship. 
Here was my chance, my way out of the dilemma. 
I would alter the original story to suit the exigencies 
of the occasion. I would have the frigate fire at the 
oncoming Nautilus at close range, and in the cloud of 
powder smoke and the tense excitement of the scene, 
no one would notice whether or not the Abraham Lincoln 
registered a terrible shock and heeled over when 
rammed by the Nautilus. And as Jules Verne stated that 
the real Nautilus struck the frigate's rudder post, I could 
by careful manoeuvring and with good luck, run close 
under the ship's counter and give the exact effect of 
ramming without actually touching her at all. First, 
however, I must provide for another detail of the scene 
as described by Verne, for I was determined that our 
picture was to agree with the story in every point as 
far as was humanly possible. The story laid particular 
stress on Ned Land and his attempt to harpoon the 
Nautilus, thinking it was a whale. I determined to 
duplicate that episode, but unfortunately, not a man in 
the company had ever hurled a whaling harpoon. But 
the actor who was playing the part of Ned Land 

135 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

seemed, with his splendid physique, ideally fitted for the 
part. He had handled the harpoon for weeks without 
ever having practised throwing it. Yet it seemed a 
simple matter, merely to stand in the ship's forechains 
under the bowsprit, and when the undersea boat drew 
near, to hurl the weapon. But there was more to 
throwing a harpoon than the actor reckoned. 

Jockeying the vessels into position as they surged 
through the open sea, I ran the Nautilus diagonally 
under the frigate's bows. Cameras clicked. The uni- 
formed crew of the warship rushed excitedly forward 
and peered with amazed faces over the bulwarks. Then 
the impersonator of Verne's great character, Ned Land, 
raised his weapon and heaved it with all his strength. 
But he had forgotten a most important detail. He 
had failed to have the line which he was holding 
coiled, free to run with the harpoon. As the harpoon 
sped through the air, the rope whipped into a loop, 
wrapped about the actor's neck, and came w T ithin an 
ace of flinging him from his perch into the sea. But 
with the trick of cutting when it came to the editing of 
the film, we used only the first flash of the harpoon- 
throwing scene, then showed a close-up of the harpoon 
striking futilely against the steel hull of the Nautilus. 
It worked out perfectly. The actor's mishap was 
merely a humorous incident compared with what 
followed. 

When my divers weren't busy diving, they worked 

136 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

as actors in the above-sea scenes. And now I had Tuck 
and Gardner, both vitally important to my under-sea 
work, playing the parts of gunners on the deck of the 
frigate. They had had experience with the type of 
cannon to be fired at the submarine as she dashed at the 
frigate's stern. 

We were ten miles out in the open ocean, and it 
was not easy to manoeuvre the clumsy vessels owing to a 
stiff breeze which was blowing, but soon they closed in. 
The scene was an utter failure for I had passed well 
beyond the stern of the frigate in the submarine before 
the cannon fired. The gun, an old-fashioned muzzle- 
loading cannon, had not belched forth its charge when 
the gunner had touched it off. Thinking the priming 
had missed fire, Tuck and Gardner bent over the 
cannon, their faces close to the touch-hole, when with 
a roar, the charge exploded, back-firing into the faces 
of the two men. Blinded, burned, cursing with pain, 
they staggered back into the arms of the company 
doctor who providentially was on the job and on deck. 
In fact he was in Naval uniform and acting the part of 
the officer at the wheel. Rushing the injured men 
below deck, he packed their faces in cracked ice, and 
sitting on their chests, picked the burned powder grains 
from their frozen eyeballs and faces. But this was merely 
first aid. One of the men was in hospital for weeks, 
and to their dying days both will bear the marks of the 
unfortunate accident. 

137 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

All of this was disheartening and discouraging, but 
the picture must go on. To add to our troubles, the 
triangular fins of sharks were cutting the water around 
the frigate. Scraps of food thrown overboard had 
attracted them. The actors who were to take the parts 
of Ned Land, Professor Arronax, and Conseil, flatly 
refused to throw themselves overboard as the story 
demanded. Nor could I blame them. Jules Verne makes 
no mention of man-eaters on hand, and sharks were 
not mentioned in the actors' contracts. Doubles had to 
be provided to act their parts in this phase of the scene. 
Even so, we were obliged to go through with the entire 
scene ten times, working from six o'clock in the morning 
until sunset before we got it right. But by this time, 
practice most certainly had made us perfect. The frigate's 
gun thundered as she stood silhouetted majestically 
against the low back-lighting of the tropical evening. 
I rushed the Nautilus at the ship's stern. Even Captain 
Nemo himself couldn't have done a better job. Here 
was realism with a vengeance, and in my anxiety to 
make the scene convincing, I overdid it a bit and 
actually knocked the massive rudder from the stern 
of the Abraham Lincoln. 

After this I felt sure the acting and photographing of 
the divers hunting in the coral forests and the crew of 
the Nautilus wandering about the floor of the ocean 
and salvaging the golden bars from the wrecked 
galleons in Vigo Bay, would present only minor diffi- 

138 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

culties. Actually there was but one serious trouble. 
As we progressed with our undersea work, I discovered 
that the divers, stimulated by the effects of the chemicals 
they breathed, felt dreamily happy after being down 
three or four hours, and often, after playing their parts 
in a scene, they would wander away on excursions of 
their own, exploring coral caves or picking sea anemones 
and would be missing when we required them for the 
next scene. It was a curious experience to have these 
hardened veterans in this serious work go off picking 
flowers like children. It was also dangerous. 

As I have already explained, the chemical oxy lithe 
when exhausted affects the diver's brain like alcohol and 
constant care must be taken that the charges are renewed 
promptly every hour. On one occasion, working over- 
time in an emergency we came uncomfortably close to 
tragedy. 

The divers had emerged from the air-lock of the 
Nautilus to the sea-floor, and had been working for a 
long time in a particularly thrilling scene. As they 
prepared to re-enter the submarine, they suddenly fell 
upon one another like maniacs, fighting desperately. 
Struggling, utterly crazed by the exhausted chemical, 
one of the men was caught in the current, swept off 
his feet, and knocking a valve which inflated his suit, 
was thrashing aimlessly toward the surface. Helpless, 
entirely out of his mind, I fear to think of the conse- 
quences had it not been for Biggie, a seven-foot giant 

139 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

and one of my native Bahamas crew, who reached down 
from our diving boat as the diver swept by and grab- 
bing him with one hand he landed him weights and 
all right on to our deck. 

Had his rescue been delayed a moment longer he 
might have submerged again and been lost. Even as it 
was the diver's face was horribly black. He was foam- 
ing at the mouth. His finger-nails had dug deep into 
his flesh. It took five men to hold him down as he 
fought like a demon. 

The diver in trouble was Crilley's brother. By this 
time Frank Crilley himself, who had been a party to the 
undersea melee, had reached the deck. Obviously he 
too was suffering from the intoxicating effects of 
oxylithe. Still dressed in his diving-suit, he sprang 
forward with doubled fists. 

"I'll fix him, ,, he cried. "All he wants is a crack on 
the jaw. Let me give it to him. He'll dream his way 
out of it." We held him back with difficulty. His 
brother was slowly responding to treatment. 

But Crilley was not as crazy as he seemed. A crack 
on the jaw had been used before in such circumstances 
with stunning success. 

Day by day, week by week, the reels of the exposed 
film increased. Thousands of feet had been shot. We 
were in the middle of the picture when one Sunday 
morning fire broke out on one of our vessels. A 
coloured boy had left a four-gallon tin of petrol on the 

141 



ey would wander away on excursions of their own* 
:RS IN SELF-CONTAINED HELMETS 



THE FIRST FILM DRAMA BENEATH THE SEA 

galley-stove after using it to light the fire. Our boats 
were moored together in the harbour and the flames 
soon spread, burning furiously and destroying every- 
thing to the water's edge except such boats as we were 
able to scuttle. When at last it was over, only the 
charred hulks of our vessels remained above the cinder- 
littered sea. Practically everything had been destroyed, 
including nine self-contained diving-suits. 

Fortunately the holocaust was not as disastrous as it 
might have been, for while I had not foreseen a fire, 
I had provided against losses by possible hurricanes and 
had a full equipment in reserve. This saved the day. 
The burned vessels were salvaged and repaired. Three 
weeks from the time of the fire we were back on 
location and the undersea cameras were grinding away 
once more. 

Now came preparations for taking the strangest, 
most striking and impressive picture I have ever made 
beneath the sea — the burial of one of the crew of the 
Nautilus on the bottom of the ocean. Let me quote 
from Jules Verne's account of this intensely dramatic 
scene: 

"Captain Nemo had stopped. I saw his men were 
forming a semi-circle around their chief. I observed 
that four of them carried on their shoulders an object 
of an oblong shape. We occupied the centre of a vast 
glade surrounded by the lofty foliage of the submarine 
forest. Our lamps threw over the place a sort of clear 

J 43 



Tie bearers approached" 

E FUNERAL PROCESSION FROM "20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA" 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

twilight that singularly elongated the shadows on the 
bottom. At the end of the glade, the darkness increased, 
and was only relieved by sparks reflected by the points 
of coral. On observing the ground I saw that it was 
raised in certain places by slight excrescences with lime 
deposits, and disposed with a regularity that betrayed 
the hand of man. In the midst of the glade, on a 
pedestal of rocks roughly piled up stood a cross of coral 
that extended its long arms that one might have thought 
were made of petrified wood. Upon a sign from Cap- 
tain Nemo, one of his men advanced; and at some feet 
from the cross, he began to dig a hole with a pickaxe. 
"I understood it all! This glade beneath the sea 
was a cemetery, this hole a tomb, this oblong object 
the body of the man who had died in the night after 
the mysterious battle. The captain and his men had 
come to bury their comrade in this resting place at the 
bottom of the inaccessible ocean ! The fish fled on all 
sides while their retreat was being thus disturbed. The 
hole was soon large enough and deep enough to receive 
the body. The bearers approached. The body envel- 
oped in a tissue of white byssus, was lowered into the 
grave. Captain Nemo with his arms crossed upon his 
breast, and all the friends of him who had loved them, 
knelt in prayer." 

I determined that this scene should be a masterpiece. 
But there were great difficulties to be overcome. I 
could not reconstruct the scene in precise details. If 
my divers dug a grave in the ocean's floor, as described 
in the story, they would stir up ooze and marl, blotting 
out everything and making photography impossible, 

144 



"Leaving the glade deserti 
CAPTAIN NEMO'S GRAVEYA 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

I should have to alter this detail and have my men inter 
the body of their comrade in a natural undersea tomb, 
a coral grotto. Otherwise the burial scene should be 
exactly as Jules Verne had pictured it. 

Days were spent in preparations and rehearsals. 
More days were spent searching for just the proper 
setting, in trying to locate a suitable cavern in the heart 
of a coral reef. Patience and perseverance had their 
reward. We found exactly the right spot; and as I 
watched from my undersea chamber and saw the pro- 
cession of weird, grotesque figures moving slowly along 
the ocean's floor with that ominous, shrouded form, 
I actually felt awed and impressed with the solemnity 
of the occasion. Reverently the burden was lowered 
and placed within die grotto. Masses of limestone were 
lifted and set in place, sealing the mouth of that solitary 
tomb beneath the sea. The uncouth figures knelt and 
above their heads rose the cross in its pristine purity of 
snow-white coral. 

With bent heads and slow steps the men turned away. 
One by one they passed from view, leaving the glade 
deserted — deserted save for the bright-hued, inquisitive 
fishes that swam dreamily about the arms of the lonely 
cross. 



146 



Chapter IX 

MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

/^\NLY three really big scenes remained to be filmed; 
^-^ the torpedoing of the yacht, the ascent of the 
balloon which was to carry the Jules Verne characters 
to the mysterious island, and finally, the undersea battle 
with an octopus. 

This battle would be truly a daring undertaking, and, 
if anything went wrong, it might mean an "under- 
taking" in more ways than one. However, the giant 
creature was yet to be located, so while the search 
continued I decided that next in order was the sinking 
of the yacht. 

There would be no doubt as to the full destruction 
of the craft. Explosive experts on the staff would see 
to that. They would arrange the explosion so as to 
create a most effective picture. This must be done in 
the open sea, and the submarine Nautilus must appear 
as the avenger. We were going to photograph the ex- 
plosion as the torpedo from the Nautilus struck her, show 
timbers and debris hurtling through the . air, picture 
the roaring flames sweeping over the yacht as she sank 
lower and lower, plunging at last beneath the sea. 

M7 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

When the yacht sailed to her doom, trimmed for 
action, she would carry a cargo of enough dynamite, 
black powder and petrol to blow up a battleship. 
Everything must go like clockwork, for this was a 
scene that could not be retaken. We had one chance 
and only one, to get a successful picture. More than 
$2 5,000 was to go up in flames and smoke. We couldn't 
afford to fail. Every detail, every act, every movement 
of every participant, whether actor or crew member, 
must be timed to a split second. 

The entire scene was gone over with the staff, the 
crew and the actors. Hammered into their minds was 
the importance of concerted action and following the 
schedule to the letter, so there could be no mistakes, 
no slip-ups, nothing to prevent the scene from clicking 
perfectly. 

The plan was as follows: the yacht was to be placed 
near some rocks that jutted out of the ocean, and on 
which the camera men were to be stationed. At a 
given signal, which was to be two pistol shots, the men 
on board the yacht were to touch off the time fuse on 
the explosives, and dash away to safety in their motor- 
boats, while the Nautilus was to run into the scene in 
order to save the hero and heroine, who were to leap 
from the doomed yacht into the sea, and be picked up 
by Captain Nemo and his crew. 

Of course, everybody and his neighbour's wife in the 
port of Nassau had heard of the spectacle about to be 

148 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

staged, and hundreds of pleasure craft had put to sea 
that day, and gathered about us at a safe distance, that 
is, as close as possible without being in the actual scene 
itself. Steaming into the foreground was the Governor's 
launch, with His Excellency, his wife and a party on 
board, the Governor having accepted our invitation to 
be present on this occasion. 

It looked like a gala day. Everything was going along 
splendidly. Unless something entirely unforeseen 
occurred, this scene could not fail to be a smashing 
success. The camera men were in their places on the 
rocks with their cameras focussed on the doomed 
yacht. The avenging Nautilus was manoeuvring for 
position. All ears were attuned to catch the sound of 
the two shots from the signal man's pistol. That signal 
was vital, for it would set all in motion. Hundreds of 
yards of open sea, splashing about in a brisk wind, 
separated the groups awaiting these two shots. 

Below deck in the submarine I was talking to some 
of the actors. 

Suddenly from the direction of the rocks came the 
report of a pistol shot ! I sprang to my feet. It could 
not be the pre-arranged signal — the allotted moment 
had not arrived. The Nautilus was far from the yacht, 
while the Governor's launch was within a few dozen 
yards of it. But the men who were to touch off the 
explosives had been warned to act on the instant. At 
the crack of the pistol, they leaped to their task, never 

149 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

waiting for the second shot, and by the time I reached 
the deck they were dashing away in their, motor-boat. 
The explosion was coming! I held my breath. The 
Governor of the Bahamas was well within the danger 
zone. He was standing there with his wife and party 
on the bridge of his launch, looking at the yacht, not 
knowing it would explode in their faces at any moment; 
and to add to my horror the launch, Governor and all, 
must surely be in the picture. 

A volcano seemed to burst into eruption. Flames, 
smoke, shattered planking and timbers were flung high 
in the air ! Debris showered about the Governor's vessel. 
Then I jumped into action. Somebody had made a 
mistake, but it was too late to do anything about it. 
Out there on the water, $25,000 worth of yacht was 
going up in fire and smoke. Her bow was sticking 
up in the air — in a moment she would sink ! 

I headed the Nautilus into the scene toward the 
blazing remains of the yacht. Slowly we neared the 
projecting bow. Every effort was made to clear it, 
but the current was sweeping us so close that the actors 
on the deck of the Nautilus could have reached out and 
touched the bow of the sinking yacht with their hands. 
I was just below them in the open hatch, safely out of 
range of the grinding cameras. The scene on the 
Nautilus was impressive, regardless of the catastrophe. 
Captain Nemo stood erect, formidable, arms folded 
across his chest, his revenge now complete. Tears 

150 



"A volcano seemed to burst into eruption* 
THE EXPLOSION WHICH WAS ALMOST TRAGIC 



v./ 



\ 




\ 



% 



S% 





TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

streamed down the heroine's face as she went through 
the pantomime of thanking Captain Nemo for her 
rescue, but I could see from her trembling that her tears 
were not all acting. The hero, fully alive to the tense- 
ness of the moment, was manfully acting his part. 

Then suddenly I remembered — inside the yacht's 
bows were a thousand gallons of petrol that had not yet 
exploded. The light of the fuse might be creeping 
up to it now, for all I knew, though evidently some- 
thing had mis-fired, to hold back the explosion until 
now. 

But the petrol was there; fire and explosives all about 
it, ready to go off. I was terrified, faint and sick; almost 
paralysed with suspense, expecting each second that 
we should all be blown to atoms. Actually we hung 
under the bows of the burning vessel only a brief 
moment, but it seemed a lifetime. As far as the camera 
was concerned, this part of the scene was perfect, for, 
just as we passed the yacht, she slipped back into the 
sea, plunging to the green depths below. 

It was over! There were cheers from the spectators. 
Their Governor was safe. Although timbers flew all 
about his party no one was injured. Again the onlookers 
cheered and cheered. Then boats scattered in every 
direction, homeward bound, or to fishing grounds or 
bathing beaches. It had been a great show! Soon the 
last of the pleasure craft disappeared into the distance. 

A starlit night settled down on us before we had 

152 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

assembled our men and equipment and started our trek 
back to the harbour at Nassau eight miles away. 

As the fleet rolled along the blue-black sea, I lay flat 
on the deck of the Nautilus. I was completely exhausted, 
utterly discouraged. It was all painfully clear to me 
now. The end of the scene could be used, even as it 
went off loaded with death; but the beginning, the 
explosion on the yacht, a six-foot flash costing $5,000 
a foot, would be a total waste if the Governor's launch 
appeared in the scene. And all because a fool assistant, 
wishing to make sure that the pistol was in working 
order, had fired a shot to test it. 

And now the suspense ! We would not dare develop 
this precious strip of film in the tropical heat of our 
testing laboratory at Nassau, served only by rainwater 
from the housetops. We must wait for the laboratories 
in New York to give us the result of the development. 
That was all that could be done about it. Wait. The 
camera men had been questioned. They did not know. 
Flying splinters from the explosion had reached them 
on the island. In the excitement of the moment, and 
not looking for the launch to be in the picture, they 
could not be sure about it. It might be in the picture — 
and it might not. All this uncertainty only added to the 
agony of suspense, growing through the days of waiting 
until the cable arrived from New York. 

It read: "Launch not in picture/" The scene was a 
knock-out! It was perfect! 

153 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

With the successful culmination of this episode, we 
next turned to the balloon ascent. In the part of the 
story we were borrowing from Verne's Mysterious 
Island, the balloon starts from the square in Richmond, 
Virginia; and in Nassau's Ralston Square, facing the 
harbour, I saw the counterpart of the scene in Rich- 
mond, fifty years before. The colonial setting, the 
sun-drenched square, carriages and donkey-carts pass- 
ing, picturesque darkies among the white citizens, all 
seemed to fit into the pattern — a flawless replica of 
Old Virginia. We did not have to be carried back there. 

Just how we were to arrange for a balloon ascent in 
the busiest part of old Nassau without disrupting 
business, traffic, and the populace generally, was 
another matter. We conferred with the officials, the 
police, and the Governor, and came to an agreement that 
seemed satisfactory to all concerned. We were to have 
the square to ourselves at night, with the privilege of 
keeping the crowds at a respectful distance, and to do 
anything we pleased within reason, on the promise that 
the square should be cleared of all our props and 
possessions before morning, and that everything should 
be restored to its normal condition for the day fife of 
the city. 

We set to work that evening. The square was 
brilliantly illuminated by our batteries of powerful arc 
lights and flares. Our balloon was a hot-air affair, and 
so was the air of the town; that night it was stifling. 

x 54 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

So to say that we worked feverishly would be no more 
than the literal truth. In order to fill our huge bag with 
heated air, it was necessary to provide a trench or pit 
in die ground, in which to build a huge fire. 

The square had never before been dug up. It was of 
solid limestone. In fact, die lower parts of some of the 
buildings facing the square had been hewn out of die 
native rock. But there were grave-diggers who were 
artists at the work of carving into the limestone struc- 
ture of the island with their gleaming axes. They were 
busy men, and much in demand, for when a person died 
in Nassau, he had to be buried the same day. Seldom 
was he interred more than a foot or so under the solid 
ground. So we hired grave-diggers, who dug like black 
demons. Spurred on by deep draughts of rum and their 
own weird incantations, they carved their way down 
into the white rock. It was a Herculean job, and long 
before it was finished, the pink blush of the eastern sky 
warned us that dawn was near. There was nothing to 
do now but fill up the hole, smooth it over, pack up 
and move bag and baggage from the square. 

It was plain that if we were ever to get our balloon 
inflated, we would have to find some speedier method 
of digging the trench. There was but one solution — 
more grave-diggers! The second night came. Again 
our ghoulish labours commenced. The grave-diggers 
worked in relays, plying axe and shovel, but once more 
daylight found us quite unprepared to make the ascent. 

J 55 



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'S& 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

Again the square had to be left smooth before the arrival 
of the first townspeople. By the third night our 
nocturnal operations were regarded as a form of local 
entertainment. By the fourth night the sporting 
element were laying bets as to whether or not we could 
get the trench completed, the fire going, and the balloon 
inflated before daybreak. 

I began to feel something like a character in a fairy 
tale under the spell of a malicious necromancer, con- 
demned to labour all night, only to see the results of 
my hard work vanish with the rising sun, bewitched 
into going on endlessly, for ever, and never getting any 
nearer to achievement. 

The spell broke one night when the trench, having 
been dug and refilled so many times, was easily exca- 
vated, and was ready with a hot fire and the balloon 
in position by midnight. 

By now our industry had been elevated from the 
plane of mere entertainment to the status of a social 
event. Each evening the people gathered about the 
square. As night advanced more and more onlookers 
would appear. After dinners and dances the elite of 
Nassau would make their appearance, gorgeous in their 
formal dress. Even when the sun was rising above the 
rim of the sea there would be a few night owls left to 
watch us "fold our tents like the Arabs and as silently 
steal away." 

On this night word was passed that the balloon was 

157 



JN CORAL 

T OF WHICH IS GROWING A STINGING GORGONIA 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

positively going aloft. The little city was on tiptoe 
with interest and anticipation. It was like the announce- 
ment of a circus parade in a country town, the premiere 
of a feature film in Hollywood or the expected arrival 
of a trans- Atlantic flyer. It was a big event. To add to 
the commotion somebody with more imagination than 
brains, seeing our guy ropes attached to the base of the 
Victoria monument, had started the rumour that we 
planned to carry off the statue of the gracious queen 
with our balloon. 

From far and near, from all parts of the island, people 
had flocked to the scene. The glow of our flares against 
the night could be seen for many miles. One excited 
darky exclaimed as he arrived panting that he had seen 
"a great light shinin , to the heavens." 

Like moths attracted to a flame came the superstitious 
natives. They filled the grassy park which extended 
from the scene of our operations to the water front. 
As the nights of excitement continued many of the 
native black folk had camped about town with their 
women and children, living only for those glorious 
hours when the bright light would shine again. They 
arrived in donkey-carts, filled to overflowing with 
young and old. Negro dandies with their "gals," 
strutting about in the glory of flaming neckties, gaudy 
shirts and yellow-buttoned shoes, stumbled over fat 
black mammies nursing their piccaninnies. As time 
went on, weary w r ith watching and "jes* natchally tired* ' 

i 5 8 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

hundreds slept on die grass in motley array. They 
looked like the dead on a battlefield. 

The fire was roaring in the trench. Hot air and dense 
clouds of smoke were billowing into the balloon that 
was slowly expanding, taking form like a giant mush- 
room, filling the centre of the square. Excitement in 
the crowd rose to fever heat. There was another 
rumour abroad that we intended to blow a hole in the 
treasury which faced the square, and steal the money ! 

Our men were hurrying and working. But in spite 
of all we could do, the balloon seemed strangely loath 
to leave the earth. Dramatically posed in the balloon 
basket were four dummies, dressed in Civil War uni- 
forms, representing the characters who were to escape 
from Richmond in the balloon. Yet there were no 
indications that the great bag was ready to soar up 
toward the brilliant tropical stars that spangled the 
velvety black sky above. 

Perhaps our fire was not hot enough. The balloon 
man provided a brilliant idea — pour petrol into the 
trench. Intent only on getting our balloon up and 
taking the picture before daybreak, we watched him 
carry out his idea. Cautiously at first, then rapidly as 
he became bolder, he fed the explosive liquid to the 
fire. It was doing the trick ! The monster bag stretched 
with a mighty heave, as though it had taken a deep 
breath. Then a roar and a flash ! Like a titanic rocket, 
flaming and awesome, the balloon shot to the sky. 

159 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Hell broke loose. With one unearthly scream, the 
mob turned and dashed away. The strong trampled 
over the weak. All were in one mad rush to escape the 
huge ball of fire. Bony old carriage horses that had 
been fast asleep, their noses drooped to the ground, 
now reared straight up on their hind legs, turned in the 
air and galloped away like two-year-olds — but they 
were not running half as fast as most of the natives. 

Others, frozen with terror, were in the grassy park 
kneeling in Al Jolson attitudes, "mammified." Some 
grovelled on the ground, digging for a hiding-place. 
And well they might, for up in the air was a burning 
mass; ropes, gear, and the great basket of the balloon. 
What goes up must come down, and somewhere that 
basket with its fiery occupants, was bound to hit — and 
it did — right in the middle of the park, missing by 
inches a huddle of terrified negroes. Preceding its 
arrival, one of the "passengers" of the balloon had 
descended from above, banging down beside a quiver- 
ing mammy who was lying prostrate with her face 
buried in the grass. Brushing the arm of the uniformed 
officer from her neck, she took one look at his battered 
countenance, and with a leap, shouting, "Lor-r — 
Deliver me! Amen!" she jumped into the bay. A 
dozen or more followed her, for the corpse was smoking 
and the negro's fear of death in any form is appalling. 

There were no casualties. Police dispersed the 
crowds, sending the stragglers home. The city scaven- 

160 



MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES 

ger did his work. With a small army of men and 
women sweepers, using brushes made of palm fronds, 
he directed the sweeping of the lawns and die brushing 
up of the entire square. Meantime we had made good 
our word and had moved off without leaving a trace. 
Every reminder of the holocaust that a few hours before 
had belched to the sky, was gone. The kindly face of 
Queen Victoria, carved from the white marble of her 
monument, looked down serenely on the customary 
life of the square. The long shadows of the morning 
faded away. It was another day. 

Later, with a gas balloon and a make-believe Rich- 
mond, we obtained the scene in a studio lot. Yet even 
now old negroes in Nassau can be heard dating all 
births, deaths, and marriages from that night of nights 
"when de balloon burn up." 



161 



Chapter X 

MAKING JULES VERNe's DREAM COME TRUE 

THE great day arrived for the battle with the giant 
octopus, a natural climax to our thrilling undersea 
adventure. 

I knew where my octopus was lurking. The stage 
was set. One of my most daring divers would take the 
part of Captain Nemo. I was confident he would go 
through with the scene successfully, but I was not so 
sure of the native diver who was to take the part of the 
pearl fisher. To assure realism I had had this man 
agree to play the part, dive in and gather his pearls, 
without his knowing exactly what was going to happen 
to him. He knew that something unusual was up when 
he saw several armoured divers sink silently down into 
the sea, just outside the camera range. However, the 
native had sublime confidence in me, and the promise 
of a big bonus if he made good. 

With the octopus, the pearl diver, and Captain 
Nemo all at hand, we were ready to go. We were 
prepared to undertake the filming of the most astound- 
ing and extraordinary scene ever attempted. 

162 



MAKING JULES VERNE S DREAM COME TRUE 

"What a scene," wrote Jules Verne in describing the 
harrowing experience of the pearl fisher. "The un- 
happy man seized by the great tentacle and fixed to the 
suckers was at the caprice of this enormous trunk. He 
rattled in his throat, he was stifled. The unfortunate 
man was lost! Who could rescue him from that 
powerful pressure. Captain Nemo rushed at the 
monster and with one blow of his axe cut through one 
arm. For an instant I thought the unhappy man was to 
be torn from the powerful suction of the tentacle. . . . 
Several of the eight arms had been cut off. But just 
as Captain Nemo and his men threw themselves on it, 
the monster ejected a stream of black liquid. ... It 
seemed as though the slimy tentacles sprang up like 
hydra's heads. My bold companion was overturned 
by the tentacles he had not been able to avoid. Ah, how 
my heart beat with horror. The formidable beak was 
open above its victim. The unhappy man would be cut 
in two! I rushed to his succour. But Captain Nemo was 
before me. His axe was buried between the enormous 
jaws, and Ned Land plunged his harpoon deep into the 
triple heart of the creature.' ' 

What a picture ! 

As Jules Verne had placed the scene of the terrible 
battle with the octopus in the West Indies, it seemed 
something more than a coincidence that we should find 
ourselves in the same locality for our combat. An 
author, however, has one great advantage over a pro- 
ducer of motion pictures. He can imagine and describe 
a setting to suit his fancy or his needs. But in taking 

163 






» 






^ : '^ : . : : 








£- 1 


mJl. 



MAKING JULES VERNE S DREAM COME TRUE 

a motion picture, and especially one under the sea, die 
producer must operate in surroundings that actually 
exist. In diis instance we were indeed fortunate. The 
spot where I expected to film the giant octopus might 
verily have inspired Verne's description of the reef 
where Captain Nemo rescued the pearl fisher. A rocky 
reef overgrown with marine life, with gigantic coral- 
trees whose roots formed dim mysterious grottoes and 
caverns, an eerie spot where the sinister shadows of 
great sharks moved menacingly through die undersea 
jungle; where huge morays twisted like giant serpents 
among the sea fans, where crabs lifted great claws and 
where, in any of the murky caverns, the huge loathsome 
octopus might lie in wait for its prey. 

At any moment I expected it to appear as I sat at the 
controls in the photographic chamber, with my camera 
man at my side. 

I could not but admire the daring of the native who 
was to act the part of the pearl fisher as I signalled him 
to stand by for his plunge into the water. A human bait 
for the monster octopus. 

All was ready. The epochal undersea conflict was 
to begin! It was a moment of breath-taking suspense. 
Surrounded by a frame of gleaming silver bubbles, the 
native came plunging into view. With a few swift 
strokes he approached the coral reef, alert, eyes searching 
the caverns, the deep grottoes, the mysterious shadows. 
Tip-toeing crabs scuttled to their holes like ballet 

165 



ere the huge, loathsome octopus might lie in wait' 
)VELY SETTING FOR HORRIBLE TRAGEDY 











Si 



MAKING JULES VERNE S DREAM'COME TRUE 

dancers vanishing into the wings of a stage. And then 
— a shudder ran through me — I pressed my face close 
to the glass, staring. I knew what to expect, I was 
prepared for it, but the actual sight of that great pulpy 
body, those great staring eyes, those snake-like sucker- 
armed tentacles, sent a chill of horror down my spine. 
The giant cuttle-fish glided with sinuous motion from 
its lair. Loathsome, uncanny, monstrous, a very demon 
of the deep, the octopus was a thing to inspire terror 
in the stoutest heart. The native saw it. He turned — 
struck out for the surface. 

Too late! Like a striking serpent, one great writhing 
tentacle shot out and threw a coil about the hapless 
swimmer. Frantically he struggled, but the sinuous arm 
of the octopus drew him down inexorably. Here was 
stark realism! And all the while the clicking of the 
camera told me that not one detail of the gruesome 
scene was being missed. 

How much longer could die native struggle there 
beneath the sea ? Bubbles of air were escaping through 
his lips. Soon his lungs would be empty. Already, it 
seemed, long minutes had passed since he was seen 
swimming down from the surface in an aura of bubbles. 

Into the field of vision came the grotesque figure of 
the helmeted diver, the gallant Captain Nemo. How 
slowly, how very deliberately he seemed to move. 
Moments dragged in tense suspense. Now he was 
beside the native who was struggling in the clutches 

i6 7 



le formidable beak was open above its victim' 
IIAMSON'S OCTOPUS IN AN EXCITING BATTLE WITH A DIVER 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

of the squirming python-like tentacle. A flash of his 
broad-bladed axe — the tentacle fell — and the struggling 
native shot to the surface, gasping for breath but saved ! 
A great cloud of ink gushed from the octopus, blacken- 
ing the sea about the wounded monster, obscuring the 
courageous Captain Nemo, and through the murky 
screen I caught glimpses of the writhing, twisting 
tentacles, flashes of the axe, and the struggling, gro- 
tesque form. Elated, I yelled with joy. Suddenly a 
current swept the inky veil aside. With his body 
wrapped about by the clinging tentacles, Nemo was 
battling furiously, while beyond him, unspeakably hor- 
rid and menacing, were the great round staring eyes, the 
huge pinkish body. But one by one the gripping 
tentacles were relaxing their hold. The creature seemed 
ready to abandon the struggle. Another cloud of ink 
enshrouded the scene, and when the water cleared, 
Nemo was moving toward us, axe in hand. 

The master scene was over. 

With this epic battle on the ocean's floor filmed, my 
undersea work on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the 
Sea was complete. 

But the gods, in the shape of producer-distributors, 
who rule the destinies of motion pictures, must have their 
innings. To them a film with no studio or "lot" 
scenes was simply unthinkable. The fact that Jules 
Verne's story was laid almost entirely beneath the sea 
did not influence them in the least. Captain Nemo's 

1 68 



MAKING JULES VERNE S DREAM COME TRUE 

adventures began with the story of the Sepoy Rebellion, 
therefore, argued die potentates diere must be scenes 
of war. Accordingly, nearly $50,000 was added to the 
cost of the picture by staging a terrific battle. It was 
money thrown away. When shown on the screen the 
fight between soldiers on land seemed false and com- 
monplace beside the undersea battles between men 
and monsters of the deep. Most of it was scrapped after 
the opinion of a famous newspaper critic was read: 
"If the rest of the picture were discarded, the undersea 
scenes alone would be worth three times the price of 
admission. ,, 

It seemed that we had timed our entrance into the 
picture-show world just right, for by the strangest 
coincidence, the picture opened the same day that a 
German U-boat suddenly appeared on the coast of the 
United States, electrifying the nation and monopolizing 
the headlines with the news that the elusive U-boat 
had slipped through all blockades, crossed the Atlantic 
Ocean, and had torpedoed and sunk half a dozen 
British ships just outside New York. Later the sub- 
marine slipped safely back to Germany. 

To quote one of the leading Chicago papers: "If 
the Kaiser had been its press agent, Twenty Thousand 
Leagues Under the Sea could not have been timed to 
better advantage." 



169 



Chapter XI 

A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

I HAVE a secret to tell. It's the secret of the skeleton 
I've kept hidden in my cupboard for a long time. 
It is no mere human skeleton, for it has eight arms — 
long sinuous ones — that have helped to weave the tale 
told in the preceding chapter. 

The terrifying octopus that chilled the blood of 
millions of movie fans in the thrill-creating battle- 
scenes, was one of my own making. To all observers, 
and even to myself, it appeared frightfully alive, and 
capable of performing the most devilish of octopus 
tricks. In fact it could and did perform them, bringing 
to the screen the ultimate in realism, and providing the 
punch to the picture version of Jules Verne's master- 
piece. But die octopus was my brain-child. It was not 
spawned in the open sea, but in a tumultuous sea of 
production details. 

What was the visual result? Let me quote from the 
Philadelphia Ledger: 

"What company has juxtaposed sharks, octopi and 
divers a-la-Williamson ? The struggle between the 

170 



A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

monstrous cephalopod and the pearl diver, ending in the 
latter's rescue by the captain is one of the rarities of the 
camera. There can be no question of fake or deception. 
It is all there, and our vision tells us that it is all true. 
This one scene alone will give Twenty Thousand Leagues 
Under the Sea the acclaim by word of mouth that brings 
the dollars.' ' 

Such opinion by Press and public was universal. 
Acceptance of the scene by the movie-going public was 
of paramount importance. It was the desired goal, for 
I was in the business of providing entertainment, 
building up thrills for the movies. Such unstinted 
praise and full acceptance of the unique octopus scenes 
was my joyful reward for all of the ups and downs I 
had undergone in this business of thrills. 

When Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under 
the Sea was first published, a great deal of it was sup- 
posed to be the wildest sort of fiction. The truth of the 
matter is, however, that practically all of it was based 
on scientific fact. Jules Verne was the first great writer 
to popularize science. While his writings may have 
seemed visionary to the public, the secret of his success 
lay in the fact that he was an expert at compiling data 
from the British Museum and other sources, and of 
weaving them into a highly dramatic story. By careful 
weighing of the known facts he built his story on a 
solid foundation of scientific truths. So when it came 
to producing his master story in films, I resorted to his 

171 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

method of rounding up scientific knowledge and 
especially facts which concerned the octopus. Octo- 
puses up to a spread of twenty feet or so were well 
known to me, but I was determined to find one for 
my picture with a spread of at least thirty feet, and 
therein lay my great problem. From the first I har- 
boured an idea in the back of my head that if I could 
not find this giant octopus I wanted in the sea, one as 
large as I knew to be fully recorded scientifically, I 
would find some way to re-create the dreaded monster 
and make it work for me. 

Throughout all the complicated developments of the 
film, the eight writhing tentacles of the octopus were 
weaving about in my mind as the search for the real 
thing continued. And search we did — above and below 
the sea — for signs of such a giant cephalopod. But the 
deadline in production was drawing near and an octopus 
had to be forthcoming. I set to work and this is what 
I did. 

I decided to model my creature after the octopus in 
the Brooklyn Museum, a marvellous reproduction 
made from measurements and details of a natural speci- 
men. The giant tentacles could easily attain a spread 
of thirty feet or more. 

First I produced one tentacle. It must writhe and 
squirm and reach out and take hold of objects, draw 
them in, coil round them like a python, to resemble in 
every detail the deadly arm of an octopus. I derived 

172 



A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

the first idea of the tentacle movement from a familiar 
toy, a rolled-up paper tube containing a coiled spring. 
When this is put in the mouth like a pipe and blown 
into, it runs out in a straight line. When the air is 
released it coils back with a snap. That part of the move- 
ment seemed simple enough, for with huge tapered 
springs and other attachments, I could regulate and vary 
these movements of the tentacle. 

Next I produced a tapered rubber tube, like the inner 
tube of a tyre, about sixteen feet long, with which to 
inflate the tentacle. As no human breath would be 
powerful enough to inflate this tube to a sufficiently 
high pressure, I resorted to compressed air. With 
springs, inner tubes and outer coverings to represent 
the skin, and with sucking-disks attached, I had a fairly 
representative tentacle of a giant octopus. At its extreme 
end it was about an inch and a half in diameter, and near 
die body where it was to join in with the head, it was 
over six inches in diameter. Hooking this up with 
high-pressure fittings I found I could shoot in the com- 
pressed air, straighten out the coil of the huge tapered 
spring and reproduce the movement of the octopus 
tentacle. But when I released the air and the inner tube 
became deflated, allowing the spring to coil back, the 
tentacle became a loose flabby thing, and wouldn't do 
at all. I had foreseen this difficulty, however, and had 
prepared a fine coil-spring to run the full length of the 
tentacle, running round and round, starting at the small 

J 73 



A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

end and coiling up to the large end. The coils of this 
spring were but a fraction of an inch apart, so that when 
the inner tube deflated, this finely-coiled spring sus- 
tained the form of die tentacle. Now, whether de- 
flated or inflated, I had what appeared to be the real 
article. 

The problem of how to make the sucking-disks had 
exercised me considerably. As the tentacle tapered 
the sucking-disks were also graduated in size. What 
could I find that would simulate these disks and also 
stand die wear and tear of the terrific strain to which 
the tentacle would be subjected in its undersea battle? 
That seemed a real problem, but the answer proved to 
be simple. Rubber balls of graduated sizes were split 
in half and sewed to the skin of the tentacle. When 
mottled in its natural colours, the entire tentacle ap- 
peared life-like in every particular. 

So far so good. The accompanying illustrations of 
the details will help to illuminate the points. But 
making one arm of the octopus was only one part of 
the devilish creature's make-up. All eight arms had to 
be considered collectively. How these were to be 
woven into the head in a natural and flexible manner, 
and how they were to be manipulated under the sea, 
I finally worked out. As the illustrations show, I placed 
the controls inside the head of the octopus, and to 
supply the creature with brains, I placed a diver, wearing 
a self-contained suit, inside the head as well. The duty 

175 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

of this diver was to put the octopus in motion and to 
convey to it my commands for the scenes in the film. 

Eventually it worked like a charm. The effect of 
the octopus gliding with sinuous motions was startling, 
even to me, and to one who did not know its inner 
secrets, viewing it in action was indeed a hair-raising 
experience. If one snake shown on the screen can 
bring chills to an audience, eight serpents combined in 
the fiendish head of an octopus can multiply the thrills 
a thousandfold. John Barrymore himself told me that 
in all of his career on the stage and screen he had never 
been so thrilled, so absolutely frozen — rooted to the 
spot — as when he viewed the amazing spectacle of my 
octopus scenes in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the 
Sea. What he wanted to know was how I did it. I told 
him I might tell him sometime. Here is my answer. 

But let us delve a little deeper into the creation of this 
sea monster, the octopus. Admitted that I am not 
presenting the octopus in my scenes as a scientific 
display, and that I produced the octopus sequence in 
my film from the viewpoint of one in the show busi- 
ness; now let us see what the scientists do in their work 
in the great museums. Suppose, for instance, they want 
to show you a lion as in life and in its natural habitat. 
What do they do ? First, with metal, wood and other 
materials, they build up a skeleton framework of the 
lion in action. The actual skin of the creature is pulled 
over the form and sewed up. Then with fur and mane 

i 7 6 



A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

carefully groomed, whiskers attached and a pair of 
perfect glass eyes, they present to you their king of 
beasts. You gaze at it in wonder. The perfection of the 
reproduction is startling. The thing seems to live and 
breathe. Now should the lion make a forward move, 
should it roar or suddenly charge at the behest of the 
scientists, would they be nature-fakers ? Of course, I 
realize the accepted museum standards of exhibition 
and I know that scientists have no desire to turn a 
museum into a menagerie through manipulation; but 
where is the dividing-line where the faithful recreation 
of any animal produced for any desired effect should be 
considered the act of nature faking ? And where the 
fake, if any? 

But getting back to my giant octopus, I found that 
to produce its form and movements were not all. 
There were more intricate matters to be considered. 
The matters of water pressure and buoyancy were most 
difficult to deal with. When inflated, each arm of the 
octopus required about a hundred pounds of weight to 
neutralize it, so that the octopus would sink and become 
to all intents and purposes a part of the undersea world. 
How to distribute nearly half a ton of weight through- 
out its body and yet have it flexible and seem as light 
as a feather in the water was one of my most tickhsh 
problems. The weight must be substantial yet almost 
fluid in effect. The fragile construction of the creature 
added to the difficulties. Getting it in and out of the sea 

177 




* 




A SKELETON IN MY CUPBOARD 

was another problem. Also, it took quite a few experi- 
ments before we could provide it with the means of 
executing its most spectacular function — the throwing 
of a great cloud of ink. First, I used a supply of writing- 
ink, and ran it through one of the tentacles into the 
body so that it could be released and expelled from the 
head in a natural manner. Gallons of this ink were 
used. It seemed to be doing the trick, but still it did not 
give quite the natural effect. It was too dark for octopus 
ink. One day I was discussing the need of a slimy sort 
of substance that would adhere to the body of the 
octopus, when one of my West Indian divers produced 
a quantity of sticky marl from a swamp. Dropping 
some of this marl into the sea, I noticed that it quickly 
dissolved and produced a perfect sepia ink. My ink 
problem was solved. A truck load of this marl was 
quickly obtained, diluted, and placed in great hogsheads 
from which, with force-pumps, I could furnish my 
octopus its ink supply. Finally I had it all tuned up to 
perfection. My creature could now move bodily about, 
throw its cloud of death, and shoot out its terrifying 
tentacles at will — my will. 

In King Kong, a later startling film production, a 
man-made giant gorilla was the central figure. This 
amazing animal dominated practically every scene. It 
seemed to live and breathe and even to experience 
human emotions. Its movements were conceived and 
executed so realistically that the public accepted the 

179 



skeleton in my cupboard?' 

CTOPUS AT REST, AFTER A HARD DAY'S WORK 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

existence of the creature as actual — at least for the hour 
they viewed the picture. What the public may have 
thought of it after the show affords food for conver- 
sation. The producers made no secret of the fact that 
the giant Kong was a mass of motors, a man-controlled 
mechanism. It is in this same category that my giant 
octopus must take its place. As in the case of Kong, 
it was entertainment that I was producing. 

While necessity was surely the mother of this creature, 
and relatively speaking, I was its father, I must say I had 
a lively and thrilling time creating those eight giant 
arms, that ugly head and weird form, and in making 
the evil-looking creature get down to work and play 
its great and important role in the Jules Verne master- 
piece. 



1 80 



Chapter XII 

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

HOLLYWOOD was my destination. 
It was springtime, March ist, and my army of 
ideas and hopes seemed to be marching along in fine 
formation. In my pocket was a contract stating that 
I was engaged, "tied up" widi one of the greatest film- 
producing companies in the world, to co-direct a 
master film — one that stood to cost well over one million 
dollars. It was to be all in colour photography, a 
mighty production. And I had never been to Holly- 
wood. Not that this apparent incongruity meant that 
I had been running the wrong way widi the ball. As 
Kipling has indicated, there is an East and a West. 
That always applies, and the movie industry is no 
exception. There are studios in the East as well as in 
California. In the East I had had ten years as an 
independent producer, with approximately that many 
successful film productions to my credit. My offices 
were in New York, my studio the floor of the ocean 
in the West Indies. Yet the magic city, the Hollywood 
of 1925, was the mecca of all movie makers. And I was 
making my pilgrimage. 

181 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

The catacombs of New York's Grand Central station 
were far behind me and the singing rails beneath my 
train were clicking the miles away when the conductor 
punched my long ribbon of ticket entitling me to the 
3,000-mile ride and said with a quizzical smile, "Holly- 
wood." And I wondered what Hollywood meant to 
him who had seen so many go out there — and come 
back. 

What did Hollywood mean to the people I would 
pass on my journey — a million an hour — girls and boys 
of all ages, working in factories, behind counters, the 
vast public bound to their tasks, nourished with the 
thrills of the movies which carried them off to a world 
of make-believe ? 

I was engaged in a marvellous industry which thrived 
on their thirst for romance, one that filled them with 
delight as they made gods of the stars, lived their parts 
with them, learned all the details of their private lives, 
and fed on the gossip. I was going to the fountain- 
head of their dreams, to the cinema heaven of the legion 
of feminine charmers, young and old, the army of 
young men taking stock of their profiles, and the host 
of budding writers, all supremely confident that they 
could show up and outdo the established Hollywood 
regime. Yet I knew I was not on my way to any 
fantastic dream city such as existed in the imaginations 
of the vast public and readers of fan magazines. It was 
enough to be going to the real Hollywood; to be one 

182 



THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

of those on the inside, one of those who know by hard 
experience how far the amateur is wrong, yet who are 
conscious of the fact that from this outer sphere, ever 
presenting itself so surprisingly new, comes the material 
for the Hollywood of to-morrow. 

Anyhow, I was getting a big kick out of my excursion 
into the West. 

A cycle often years had passed since I had produced 
Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 
and with a brand new audience grown up, the movie 
world was ready for another great undersea film. Jules 
Verne had written a companion story to his great 
masterpiece. We could merge the two under Verne's 
own title of the sequel, The Mysterious Island. With 
modern production aids and the magic of colour photo- 
graphy, a great caste of stars and players, my storehouse 
of under-sea experience, and all that Hollywood could 
supply, it seemed that we had all of the ingredients of a 
classic, with box office success assured. 

There were to be many delays, however, and much 
time was to be spent before Verne's story could be 
made suitable for a "movie" success; for many weeks 
all minds focused on the epic battle to bring the 
"Island" up to date. Conferences bred more confer- 
ences, as each idea, launched in a breeze of enthusiasm 
came limping back to port with sails down. The 
flickering midnight oil might find one of these sessions 
in progress at the home of the great star already 

i8 3 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

assigned to play the lead. And varying from the 
work-day hours on the lot, night conferences would 
often be held in my hotel room and elsewhere, and the 
supervisor once called a meeting for eight a.m. at his 
home— an unheard-of hour in Hollywood. 

Finally, somewhere in the mist, a form seemed to be 
taking shape — a story — one that seemed to suit the 
studio heads. No incubator baby could have been 
nurtured with greater care than this effort which seemed 
to bring The Mysterious Island closer and closer to the 
camera lenses. But it developed very slowly, and with 
many setbacks. 

Then, at long last, the modernized version of The 
Mysterious Island seemed to burst from its swaddling 
clothes. It grew to fantastic and amazing proportions. 
Instead of the truly romantic character that Verne had 
depicted, in the Civil War period, the now modern 
Nemo, central figure of the story, was monstrous. 
On an up-to-date island with the advantages of modern 
death-dealing science, if he ever wreaked the vengeance 
at his command, it would be so all-consuming and 
terrible that it would be a cataclysm for which no sane 
man could be responsible. 

Then there followed a conference of the master 
minds out of which came the bright idea that if Nemo 
would not do these things while sane, then why not 
make him crazy? So poor Nemo went crazy and could 
now carry out any business that could be conceived for 

184 



THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

the picture. Then still another difficulty arose. With 
all these mighty and modern agencies of vengeance 
possible, and growing larger daily, the wrong for which 
Nemo sought revenge seemed too small, too insig- 
nificant, for such horrible reprisal. The injury he had 
suffered must be magnified. That was going to be a 
tough nut to crack, for he was already bearing up 
under the worst of hurts that should scorch a man's 
soul. Again the writing staff went into a series of 
confabulations. The next day came a call from the boss. 

Seldom was anyone summoned to his inner sanctum. 
I had reached it only once in my lifetime. I was a 
moment late, for the call had been a hurried one and 
the lot spread out over fifty-three acres, but I hastened 
to the appointment. Maybe the boss was going to call 
the picture off. By this time I felt that that would be 
good news to me. As I entered the door the boss 
stopped short. He had started a speech to the ring of 
talent that surrounded him, filling every seat and space 
around the four walls of his office. Courteously, and 
in his customary low tone, his face pale and calm, he 
said, "Come in, Williamson. Have a seat. I want you 
to hear all of this." There was a ripple of a smile 
around the charmed circle for there was no chair left. 
But I quickly filled the gap by sitting on the upholstered 
arm of a chair already filled by somebody's bulk. 

There was a moment's silence, then he began again, 
unfolding his plans to supply the missing idea, one that 

i8 5 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

would give Captain Nemo the new and adequate 
motive for revenge. It would be a breach of ethics 
for me to repeat the idea he unfolded, but it was one 
where beauty and pathos were strangely blended, and 
through which the fascinating face of Nemo's wife 
appeared and reappeared with fleeting smiles of tran- 
scendent beauty. To me it was a story full of poignancy. 

It held the entire crowd in its spell. There may have 
been yes-men in the room but there were also plenty 
of no-men, and no one said no. The boss smiled and 
relaxed for a moment. Yes, he believed that it was the 
big idea needed — a two-dollar idea. What he meant 
was a ten-shilling attraction at the box office. 

Tackling his subject anew he went on dramatically, 
enlarging upon the plot for the picture. Now, with 
the motive for revenge supplied, he dwelt upon the 
new and modern Nemo. Here was this fiendish mad- 
man, a Jekyll and Hyde in character, supreme on his 
impregnable fortress, the mysterious island. This was 
his base of operations and at his command was every 
modern invention known to science: television, death 
rays and all the ghastly new devices for dealing out 
terrifying death. With full control of these forces above 
and below the sea he could wreck the world. 

It was going to be a great picture and the conference 
was over. 

The supervisor, with his staff of writers, left the lot 
to go off to the rarefied atmosphere of the Colorado 

186 



THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

Mountains twelve hundred miles away, to think. It 
looked like fast action. Things were popping. After a 
time a wire came from Colorado as exhilarating as the 
climate up there. It said in brief, "We have it." 

They brought it back to the studio, and when it was 
laid out on the table and dissected the story was im- 
possible. It proved to be just another Hollywood 
corpse. However, in its short life it gained one distinc- 
tion; it was the last of the modern versions of the book. 
A new supervisor had arrived on the lot and The 
Mysterious Island was the first thing handed to him on 
top of the heap of production he was to do — a prodi- 
gious load of work which he grasped most eagerly. 
He was young and could take it. And to top the 
excitement of his entrance into the arena, he produced 
a brand new idea, that the "Island" should be done in 
the actual Jules Verne period and not as a modern 
version! You might now think that we were back at 
our original starting-point, and that my scenario was 
to be used; but I was to learn by slow degrees that 
Jules Verne hadn't written a story big enough for this 
Hollywood lot. The powers had decided definitely 
they would not film his romantic adventure story, 
which my version followed closely. It must be some- 
thing more than that, something much larger, some- 
thing "Big!" And the Abraham Lincoln atmosphere 
with its Civil War characters was definitely "out." 
Richmond, Virginia was "out." For technical reasons 

187 



THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 

die story was now to be laid in Russia. Captain Nemo 
was to be a Russian, the whole cast Russians. These 
ethnological changes were satisfactory to me providing 
the story was right. The undersea possibilities were 
still open. 

The supervisor said to me, "Now! — Where you have 
ten divers I want a hundred divers — two hundred if I 
can get them." — I knew that the profuse use of divers, 
like the profuse use of dollars, would not insure the 
success of this picture. The successful appeal of the film 
would depend on the carefully woven thread of human 
emotions running through it. If this were weak or 
broken, the picture, no matter how big it was made, 
would be but a robot, a Frankenstein, all show and 
spectacle, monstrous, but without a heart. 

But it wasn't for me to halt expansion, and I could 
not pose as an oracle, for no one really knows — in 
pictures. If the picture were overbuilt, it could be cut, 
scissored to success. I knew by experience that both 
fortunes and faces had been tossed on the cutting-room 
floor. 

Twenty-one weeks after I had thrashed everything 
out with the supervisor, Hollywood ordained I was 
ready to leave. The story had been gone over, item 
by item, and die continuity written. Everything had 
been mapped out and blue-printed to the last dot. I had 
selected my staff of assistants and others, and had care- 
fully chosen the actors who were to double for the stars 

189 



CINDERELLA" EXPLORING 

4 A DIM LAND WHERE THE TREES ARE TURNED TO STONE 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

in the West Indies. They were to come on later. I 
was ready to go. 

On my way out I stopped to say good-bye to one of 
the owners of the great company, the big boss of the boss. 

"What!" he exclaimed. "Leaving? Stop! Hold 
everything !" 

And so everything was held up for ten long days, 
more than trying to me, for another May and June 
had passed along with more ideal weather for my work 
undersea. Now it was July and hot. But I waited 
while every department on the lot went over the cost 
charts and blue prints, plucking $1,000 here, $500 here 
and $250 somewhere else, effecting a saving in produc- 
tion, still on paper, of about $75> 000 

Then after a final warning on cost from the boss, 
oddly coupled widi the pronouncement that even with 
die trimming the picture had just received, the company 
was starting the most expensively budgeted picture they 
had ever made, including "Ben Hur," it was decreed 
I could go. 

This time there were no good-byes. Just a wave of 
the hand, so-long and good luck. 

We were off. 



190 



Chapter XIII 

THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

TEN days of terrific heat in New York found me 
with my staff, and the tons of diving-suits, materials 
and equipment peculiar to my work, fully assembled, 
and on board the steamer, heading south. Gentle winds 
and a calm sea seemed to be paving the way to success. 
And, thank God, I could have three days' rest. 

One night we beheld the rare phenomenon of a night 
rainbow arching through the bewitching scene of 
moonlight over the open sea. Jet black clouds were 
cutting across the heavens. It was a sign of a disturbed 
atmosphere, but it was hard to believe that anything 
could be ahead of us except the perfect weather we 
were going through. But a sudden lurch of the steamer 
told me we were entering a storm area. That evening 
I chanced to observe another bad omen — the captain 
hurriedly leaving the wireless room, with trembling 
hands. Investigating, I learned that a hurricane was 
moving up. We were in for it. All the next day we 
wallowed through the storm and that night we rode 
it out. The captain manoeuvred his ship as if she were 
a living thing, taking the great waves first on the port, 

191 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

then on the starboard bow; but occasionally the 
labouring ship would drop into a great trough as if 
into an empty tub, and the next instant would be 
smothered from stem to stern with the hissing, seething 
waters. That night we received a crisp wireless message 
from the Nassau station. "Centre of tropical disturb- 
ance of hurricane intensity heading north-west over 
city within an hour." That was all. Not another 
sound came from the station. Its great wireless towers 
had been blown flat. 

Next morning we steamed into the harbour. The 
wrath of the hurricane had been spent. All was hushed 
and calm. Sixty-five persons had been drowned in the 
Bahamas. Bodies floated in the harbour. My island 
base at Nassau looked as if it might have been pushed 
up out of the sea. Most of my fleet had been sunk. 
The vessel, Jules Verne, equipped with the Williamson 
Tube had foundered on a mudbank after another big 
vessel, broken loose in the storm, had swept it away 
from its moorings. The hatches were blown off, and 
inside, our vital machinery was coated with a half-inch 
of grey mud. Not a pleasant sight, especially when I 
recalled the loss of months of perfect weather through 
the Hollywood delay. 

My small army of divers were as much at home under 
the water as above, and merely being swamped was 
but a ripple in the day's work. We soon overcame our 
difficulties, repairing all damage done by the hurricane. 

192 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

During a previous scientific expedition I had explored 
hundreds of miles of undersea forests and had picked 
the choicest of diese locations for the filming of The 
Mysterious Island. I established our main work base 
near Highbourn Cay, some forty-five miles from 
Nassau. Here a low-lying group of reefs or cays formed 
an atoll with the suggestion of a harbour at one end 
of the lagoon, although the highest elevation of any of 
the reefs was a dozen or so feet above the water. 

With my previous experience in colour photography 
under the sea, the results were immediately successful. 
Exquisite scenes in colour came reeling in from the 
undersea realm. In addition to a host of native divers, 
I had my company of armoured divers, including such 
veterans as Crilley and Gardner. On the shore of the 
lagoon I was carrying out an odd piece of business, 
putting the diving-suits on dummies and arranging them 
in various groupings, so that I could illustrate to my 
divers just what they were to do when they were on their 
own in the depths. 

Soon I was ready for the work of die stars, and 
needed the doubles I had selected, one of whom was 
Peggy Fortune, an aquatic wonder, who was to double 
for Sally O'Neil, who was playing the chief female 
part in the land scenes. I wired to the production head 
in Hollywood to send them on. A wire was back in 
an hour, "Exhaust all possibilities of fmdmg doubles in 
Florida. " This might mean that something had gone 

l 93 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

wrong and that those I had selected were unavailable, 
but I guessed that it was a production idea of economy. 
It was only a dash across the gulf to Florida and I 
landed there early next morning. At Miami we 
flashed a hurried call along the coast and started die 
round-up. 

At the Roney Plaza pool I started my survey with 
my busy assistant, Charley Stallings, lining up the 
prospects. There were humorous aspects to the experi- 
ence but it was serious business to me. Not one was 
suitable. We made a hasty dash up to Palm Beach. 
The plan was to come back down the coast by degrees 
and see all. Palm Beach produced nodiing. Neither 
did the towns just south, and we continued on to 
Hollywood — Hollywood, Florida. There by the sea 
I heard of a girl who seemed to have the appearance 
and the measurements required. But when I saw her, 
I knew instantly that she wouldn't do. The require- 
ments were exacting. The first one was a natural 
similarity in poise and appearance to the star, and there 
were others. The over-developed shoulder muscles of 
professional swimmers were an immediate bar. I 
needed a slip of a girl who had everything — exceptional 
ability to swim and dive, plus beauty and the pliancy of 
youth. Above all she must be professional in recogniz- 
ing die need to go and to do as told, widi no mamma 
to guide her. 

But tliis aspirant was charming; it was hard to say no. 

194 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

She was eager for a chance so we rushed to the pool 
at the beach hotel. It was empty. They were cleaning 
it out. We were jumping into our car when the girl 
begged for a chance to go through her stunts in a pool 
at the Deauville casino some miles down the road in 
the direction we were going. I couldn't object, so 
behind our speeding roadster struggled a Ford filled 
with the ambitious beauty and members of her family 
who were in on the conference and probably hoping 
to be in on the contract, if any. 

Again a drought. The Deauville pool was as dry as 
Sahara, with the high combing surf of the Atlantic 
ocean a stone's throw away. By this time I was con- 
vinced that doubles in Florida were definitely a wash- 
out. Night was coming on as we hustled away. There 
was quite a stretch between us and our starting-point 
in Miami and we were burning up the road. A rattle 
in the rear informed us that the unbaptized beauty was 
still with us. With the spirit of Ben Hur, she won by 
a nose as we reached the pool at the Roney. And 
there in the cool twilight, for in fact it was a tropical 
night, she sported in the water, eager for our approval. 
I had to summon all the graces of the art of refusal, 
learned through years with the movies, to say no — 
— with thanks. By that time Stallings had California 
on the 'phone. I reported the exhaustion of all possi- 
bilities and of my own patience as well, and asked for 
my doubles. They were on the train next morning. 

lc ;5 



r 




THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

Ten days later, crouched in my undersea photosphere 
with my camera man beside me, I was directing an 
exquisite scene at the bottom of the sea. 

Half buried in an undersea jungle, the rotting hulk 
and timbers of an old galleon seemed to harbour its 
priceless treasures of the past, and, spiralling down in a 
stream of bubbles into this eerie setting, came our sea- 
nymph, Peggy Fortune, doubling for the star. The 
technicolour camera was recording the scene with all 
its gorgeous colourings. Yet the menace of the wild 
ocean and its denizens was present and evident. Beauty 
and the beasts were there. A thousand forms of sea-life 
were about her. There was positive danger. But from 
both above and below, at lest six pairs of eyes were 
watching for her safety as she gracefully accomplished 
her difficult scene. 

Nearly five fathoms down she had stopped by a huge 
"brain coral,' ' to feed from her hand the voracious 
wild fish of the depths. She could easily do two minutes 
under water, astounding us all and especially the native 
divers, for she could outdo any of them in the art of 
which they considered themselves masters. 

I assigned two men to the job of looking after her 
safety while sne was in the water, Bob Zimmerman, a 
giant of a man and a remarkable swimmer, and Cinder- 
ella, the pick of my native divers. 

The tests of this scene were perfect as far as the action 
was concerned, but we found to our consternation that 

J 97 



She had stopped by a huge brain coral" 

HE "MERMAID" WHO PLAYED THE LEAD IN "THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND' 










' 


) i j 








1 i 

\Tm 1 





THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

we had a red-headed woman, a flame-capped mermaid, 
in our picture. This would never do, for the star in the 
studio for whom Peggy was doubling, appeared with 
soft auburn hair, and as the cuts were immediate, 
— going from the double to the star and back in an 
instant — the colour must match exactly. It was a trick 
of the undersea Lighting that had distorted the colour 
of her hair, and a mad scramble was made for a wig. 
The one we finally used was a ghastly thing of straw- 
berry blonde, but when filmed under the water a perfect 
match for the auburn tresses of the star. 

With the new wig in hand there was a rush again 
to the undersea filming. My well-trained crew could 
fall in like a company of soldiers, and soon Peggy 
Fortune was re-enacting her scene, while flat on their 
stomachs on die diving platform with water glasses at 
their eyes were Zimmerman and Cinderella, ready for 
any threat of danger. Peggy had continued with her 
scene to the limit of her endurance, when the black boy 
above, with a guttural yell and a splash, shot down to 
the rescue. He thought he had seen a big moray too 
near to the girl. J stopped the scene. It was ruined for 
the picture, but I might have saved it for the comedy 
of that faithful old gorilla, Cinderella, pawing his 
signals to Peggy and chasing her madly back up to the 
surface. I immediately put in an order that no one was 
to go after Peggy until I said so; I would be the judge 
of the danger, and the scene was started again. 

199 



MP KANOPENER 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

This time when Peggy passed close to an aged iron 
lantern projecting from the stern of the galleon,the 
trailing wig caught in the whorls of the lamp, scalping 
her perfectly, though she did not realize it, and went 
right on with her scene. I watched that precious wig 
breathlessly. It hung by a hair and might at any instant 
go whirling away in the swift ocean current. "Shall 
I get her, shall I get her ? " shouted Zimmerman. "Hell, 
no," I yelled, "get the wig." 

The scene was taken successfully a few minutes later, 
and we moved on to the next one. 

With fifty people in my company the problem of 
living conditions on a coral reef had to be met, and I 
had a camp erected at the head of the lagoon. A most 
important factor was the cooking and eating. Dining 
upon the reef was in sharp contrast to the comforts of 
Hollywood. Of course, we had the very best food 
available, the pick of two continents, but it came to us 
in tins. At the back of the cook-house where old Pete, 
the cook, concocted his culinary wonders, a jagged 
mountain of tins began to grow to amazing propor- 
tions. With its peak glittering in die sunlight, it was a 
daily feature of interest to the restless members of the 
company. First in fun and then in fact, our habitat 
became known as Camp Kanopener. 

While there was scant bird or animal life on the 
islands, the reefs on which we lived were infested with 
iguanas — huge lizards widi jagged spinal adornments, 

200 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

scaly and sinister, with long black claws and a pre- 
hensile tail ever curved for flight or defence. They 
varied in size from little fellows not more than twelve 
inches long to grotesque creatures, measuring more than 
four feet, hideous to behold. 

These reefs were honeycombed with holes, some of 
the erosions being as large as small caves. And in these 
cavernous depths the iguanas lived. But the savoury 
odours from our kitchen were a disturbing element in 
their lives, and even in broad daylight, without the 
cloak of night, an army of these creatures could be 
seen at all times, their beady eyes peering, as they 
moved down in rank and file to the cook's back door. 
The younger ones grew bold enough to venture into 
the kitchen and around under the stove, but as they got 
larger, a natural instinct warned them to retreat. About 
the cook-house door they gathered in companies, 
becoming larger in size with each succeeding rank, until 
from the underbrush in the rear leered the oldest and 
largest iguanas, red scaly pouches hanging from their 
throats. Suddenly a small, one would grab a morsel of 
food and run, but it would seldom get far before the 
food was grabbed by a larger fellow, and so on down 
the line. 

The cook had a method of trapping these animals 
with mosquito netting. The instant the net dropped 
over them they would turn over on their backs like a 
cat, and fighting with their claws, would become hope- 

201 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

lessly ensnared. The cook, without scientific motive, 
began collecting. A local market boomed for these crea- 
tures as souvenirs, and boxes filled with them were soon 
sitting about the camp, each labelled as to ownership. 

My best colour camera man grew weary of tinned 
food. He had visions of steaks and strawberry short- 
cake and ice-cream. Finally he refused food altogether 
and really seemed to be ill. Coming back from his 
work one day, the cook invited him in. 

"I got something good for you to-day," he said. 

The camera man sat down and sniffed delightedly at 
the steaming bowl set before him. He noted the pieces 
of flaky white meat floating about. 

"Chicken soup!" he exclaimed. 

"Yes, suh," answered old Pete, shuffling off. "Sit 
down and eat yo' fill." 

This he did, enjoying every mouthful, saying he 
hadn't tasted anything to equal it in years. 

"But where did you get the chicken?" he asked 
when there was no more soup in the bowl. 

"Island is full of 'em," answered Pete. "There's 
one now." He pointed to an iguana scuttling by. 

The camera man wouldn't believe it. His face turned 
a sickly grey-green. 

"You're kidding me," he said stoutly. 

But the cook took the unhappy boy down to the 
dump pile on the shore and there on the white sand 
showed him the claws and the head of the iguana. 

202 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

The veil of decency must be drawn over the remainder 
of the session between the camera man and the cook. 

The new moon had just started to wane. It marked 
the passing of the second month of our activities on 
location. The weather had been a bit "rugged" as die 
natives called it, but reasonably calm, and we had been 
getting along with our schedule. Yet the sunsets began 
to look queer. There was a coppery film over the sun. 

One night the atmospheric silence was ominous. 
Uneasiness among the people increased with the buzz 
of mosquitoes and the torturing sting of sand-flies. 
Stallings came out to my flagboat where I slept on 
deck and asked me if I would come ashore. "I wish 
you would help me to hold them," he said. "They're 
getting hysterical." The monotony and the strain of it 
all was worrying even the best of my company ashore. 
I hustled to the camp willingly and made use of an old 
scheme my father had told me he always practised at 
sea — getting all hands busy at something. There was an 
old guitar at the camp and soon everybody was singing 
the songs diey liked best. Stallings hammered out a 
staccato obligato on his typewriter as he compiled a list 
of the favourite tunes which I made him paste on to the 
back of the guitar for future use. 

At daybreak next morning the supply boat brought 
a gale warning. Two "twisters" were developing 
between us and the Caribbean Sea. One had been 
located, but the other was eluding the weather hounds. 

203 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Reports of it were vague. Its direction and intensity 
were unknown, but feared. 

As I was just leaving camp for our location some two 
miles away, I stuffed the report into the pocket of my 
shirt. The curve of these storms is varied, and I could 
only hope we were out of their paths. In the lee of 
big Highbourne Cay, which was densely overgrown 
with low jungle, I hastily boarded the Jules Verne and 
began my work, inspecting the crew of nine men; 
then I went on to the smaller vessel, the Enia, a low, 
stout sloop with a long open cabin. This was my 
floating office and laboratory. Here my camera men 
were preparing for the day, and I gave orders all round 
to snap into action. We were all too busy to think 
about a storm, especially when there were scant signs 
of one on the horizon. We had taken our blow for 
the season, and were resting assured that the worst was 
over. The conclusion was reasonable for I had worked 
ten years in these islands without the interruption of a 
single hurricane. 

We were steaming out from the half-moon bay in 
Highbourne Cay when a sharp blow sprang up out of 
the north. If this were going to continue it would 
interfere seriously with our work, so we swung back 
and anchored. Such a wind from this quarter was 
unusual and seemed ominous. We stood by watching 
developments, and by noon we realized that we were 
in for a gale. The direction of the wind was steadily 

204 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

shifting and through the scuds of rain and the foam of 
the sea it looked as though a hurricane might develop 
any minute. In all our equipment on the Enia I could 
find no barometer. One should have been hanging in 
its accustomed place, but later I discovered that one of 
my native boat crew, nervous about hurricanes, had 
borrowed it. Watching the action of the Jules Verne s 
crew some few hundred yards away across the stormy 
bay, I saw all hands working like mad to get out the 
hurricane anchors. They were running a network of 
long lines in every direction. By now I didn't need a 
barometer. I could smell a hurricane. 

Everything possible had to be done to prepare for 
the worst. Manoeuvring about, I let go all anchors on 
the Enia, and dropped back to get the benefit of the 
full length of the lines. By three o'clock in the after- 
noon a full gale was upon us and the crescent bay 
topped by the frowning jungle of Highbourne Cay 
was a seething cauldron. Out in the maze of white water 
mixed with the fierce deluge of rain, the Jules Verne 
wallowed in the sea. There was something most 
unusual happening aboard her. Through the driving 
scud I could see the nine men of her crew hastily 
leaping into the big long boat. The next instant they 
had cast off and had vanished like a streak into the murk. 
What did this mean? Had the vessel sprung a leak? 
Only some such peril or their barometer falling to the 
bottom of its scale could have frightened them into 

205 





\*»r.*wb 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

deserting the ship. I hoped they would make land 
safely, but I knew they were taking a desperate chance. 
With the wind going around the compass, they 
couldn't be certain where the shore lay, for it had been 
lost to our vision for hours. On calm days nothing 
could be more lovely and inviting than the strip of 
curving beach on which they hoped to land; but on 
either side of this smooth coral strand arose the talon- 
like claws of the eroded coral reefs. If the long boat 
dashed against these it would mean torn bodies and 
possible death to some of the crew. 

The sudden deserting of the Jules Verne by her crew 
caused consternation. Such a thing had never hap- 
pened before and without a barometer we could only 
guess the reason for such a desperate move. On the 
Enia with me were my two best camera men, as well 
as Zimmerman and a weather-beaten negro assistant. 
In the midst of the terrific storm such things as the 
colour filters for the cameras had to be nursed, and like 
a hen about to be driven from her nest, these camera 
men were worrying about keeping moisture out of 
the colour filters. Like eggs in an incubator, these 
filters had to be kept at a certain temperature and, to 
keep out dampness, a lighted lamp always burned 
under them when they were not in use. The film for 
the cameras was nursed in an ice-box. Even that had to 
be maintained at a certain temperature. These were 
just some of the minute problems that were keeping 

207 



A DIVER AND A "MERMAID" MEET IN AN UNDERSEA GARDEN 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the men busy, while around them the immensity of a 
hurricane was building. 

But the moment was to come when every man 
thought only of his life. There was positive alarm. 
I could see it in their eyes. The crew of the Jules Verne 
scudding for the shore had made them panicky. With 
the powerful Zimmerman as a guiding star, they had 
made up their minds to take a wild chance and swim 
for it, to try to make the shore as the others had done. 
But I would not permit it, and I warned them that 
they were being fooled into thinking that the will- 
o'-the-wisp shore was where they had last seen it. 
If we foundered, then we could all swim for it with 
our chances as good as now. We settled down to wait. 

By now it was blowing a real hurricane, by far the 
worst of the six I had experienced. It seemed im- 
possible that our little vessel could live through it. 
Everything movable that could be destroyed on deck 
had been blown away. Even the tightly-furled sails 
had gone. The devilish fingers of the gale had ripped 
apart the lashings and like grey ghosts the torn and 
tattered canvas had vanished into the blackness of the 
storm, leaving only the bare and naked spars, while a 
single strand of jib was all that remained, a pennant 
streaming from the masthead as hard and stiff as iron 
and screaming to the lashing of the wind. From every 
side, from the storm-tossed seas and the thrashing, 
flattened jungles of the hilly cay came a thunderous 

208 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

roar — waves of sound rising and falling, surpassing the 
mighty volume of a thousand symphony orchestras; 
yet through it all, like the shrill top note of a piccolo 
I could hear the high-pitched scream of that fragment of 
the jib changing in tone as it frayed away. God ! If 
the thing would only break off and stop ! That night 

I learned the real meaning of "the screech of a hurri- 

»» 
cane. 

It was the long arm of coincidence that reminded 
me of the fact that only eight weeks before, while in 
the grip of the previous hurricane, two native sloops 
had anchored in the very spot where we were now. 
When the fury of the storm was over, dead bodies were 
strewn around the deserted shore for days, until by 
chance a government boat, searching among the 
islands, had found them, tragic, gruesome skeletons. 
A deep pit was dug near the shore and the remains of 
the bodies were rolled into it. I had actually seen the 
mound of new earth and the fringe of wreckage around 
the bay. Domestic articles of every kind, even baby 
shoes matted in the sand, and debris on the shore were 
pathetic evidence of the tragedy. 

Were we destined to meet the same fate? Would 
our battered bodies be found stretched lifeless, rotting 
in the sun when the hurricane had passed? 

Throbbing through my brain were disquieting, 

torturing thoughts of the camp on the low reefs of the 

lagoon. My people were there. What if the sea rose 

209 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

and engulfed them? Isolated in our storm-tossed 
vessel, we could know nothing of what was taking 
place on shore. The reefs, even the cay itself, might be 
completely submerged and everyone drowned without 
our knowledge. As that night of terror wore on, my 
thoughts wandered. Was this to be the end, the end of 
everything ? I recalled those trying months of waiting 
in far-off Hollywood. Had all that delay, all of those 
disappointments, been merely a prelude to shipwreck, 
to death and the loss of my company on the jagged 
coral fangs? I felt personally responsible for them all, 
for I had brought them here — brought them here only 
to perish. And I shuddered as I thought of their 
friends, their families and their relatives. Who would 
tell them the tragic, awful news? 

It was midnight when my gloomy forebodings were 
suddenly interrupted and I snapped back to reality and 
action. One of our anchor lines had parted. Two other 
lines held, but to prevent them from chafing away like 
the first one, I decided they must be attended to, or at 
any instant we might find ourselves entirely adrift. 
The storm was now at the height of its fury with 
visibility reduced to a few feet. I had heard of ioo-mile 
an hour gales where one had to crawl along on one's 
stomach to keep from being blown away, or dashed 
away by the terrific weight of water accompanying the 
wind; but I had never experienced the thrill of a personal 
encounter with these elements in full fury until I went 

210 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

out on deck that night. My camera men had volun- 
teered to help me do the job on the ropes, but I selected 
Zimmerman and the hardy coloured boy. Now we 
were inching along the deck while the wind, like a 
living thing, seemed to clutch us, to drag at us with 
irresistible force. Finally, through thundering waves 
and howling winds, we got to the anchor lines. Swing- 
ing out over the bow, I tried to shout orders, but it 
wouldn't work. The wind blew my mouth out of shape 
so that words wouldn't form, although with the 
bedlam around me a human voice meant nothing. 
So I resorted to pantomime and we were soon organized 
at the lines, wrapping them around with canvas and 
burlap to stop the chafing. Then we let go and with 
one slippery slide, we landed back in the cabin. My 
skin was burning from the force of the torturing pin- 
like blast of rain. I had gone out dressed in my under- 
clothes, but as I stood in the light of the swinging 
lantern upon my return to the cabin, I realized my 
hurricane garments were gone — blown to a September 
Morn. It had been a strenuous battle, but now we felt 
more secure, and one by one the men succumbed to 
drowsiness, while the storm was still howling furiously. 
Zimmerman was shivering, so I covered him with a 
soaking wet mattress, and he too eased off to sleep. 
But there was none of it for me. 

Like pendulums on the ends of our long anchor 
•cables, the two vessels were swinging in the storm and 

211 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

occasionally I could see the bulk of the Jules Verne 
loom near our sloop. All moorings were in confusion 
for now we were pulling on our anchors in almost the 
opposite direction from what we were when the 
storm started. Again and again, through the milky 
scud of rain and sea the dark bulk of the Jules Verne 
would ride dangerously close to our sloop. There were 
two alternatives, either someone would have to swim 
to the Jules Verne, let go the anchor-line that was pulling 
it close to us or, as the vessels came together, we could 
jump for it. It would be a wild leap to try to land on 
the deck of the Jules Verne and broken legs or arms might 
result, yet it might be the one way out, for if the boats 
collided, ours, being the frailer of the two, would be 
the first to sink. However, I decided on the first plan, 
and awoke Zimmerman, and with the aid of the 
coloured boy we got to the deck again after I had 
fastened all of the available small rope to him for a 
life-line. Now he was ready to go. With the coil of 
rope in my hands I watched for the ominous bulk of 
the Jules Verne to come near again. Zimmerman was 
gone. Only a master swimmer could have lived through 
that turmoil, and soon Zimmerman was lost to me 
completely except for the feel on the rope as I let it 
run out. Soon I got to the last few feet. If he went 
much farther I would have to begin pulling him back. 
By now the vessels had swung far apart. He might 
miss making it. I didn't dare pull him back. The 

212 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

rope became taut and I leaned far over the side, hung 
on to the last inch, with Zimmerman tugging like mad. 
Then the strain eased. He had just caught hold of the 
stern of the Jules Verne, I waited, and as the vessels 
veered near again, I could dimly see him making his 
way along the deck. The anchor line he was searching 
for was now thumping up under our hull like a steel 
cable, but he let it run, and jumped back into the 
boiling sea. 

I had some fast work to do now. Before Zimmerman 
had left us, I had asked him to dive and loop a hawser 
under die menacing anchor line from the Verne, and 
the moment he let go o£ it, with the help of the native 
boy, I whipped it up on deck and made two turns and 
a half hitch around our own mast. I wasn't letting go 
of any anchor lines in that storm. Then I had time to 
attend to Zimmerman. He was out on the end of that 
line somewhere. He had boasted of being at home in the 
water and that night he got his chance to prove it. 
I rushed to his life-line which I had securely fastened, 
and hauling in the slack we soon brought in Zimmer- 
man, who was thrashing away with the Australian 
crawl. We pulled him aboard, but he didn't realize 
until the next day that he had fractured two ribs on 
that round trip across the seething gulf that separated 
the two boats. 

Something like daylight finally arrived. Dying, the 
storm was almost as trying as when at its height. 

213 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Fumbling for something to write on, I found the for- 
gotten weather report in my shirt pocket, now wet 
and soggy, and made a few notes on the back of it. 

At last, the wind died down and the light increased 
until we could see the outlines of the desolate shore. 

Squatting in a dismal row near the remains of the 
shattered long boat was the crew of the Jules Verne 
looking out at their vessel, still afloat on the now 
tranquil bay. Later I heard their story. Waist deep in 
the rushing waters they had clung to the small palmetto 
trees and somehow had gone through that terrible 
night. One of the coloured crew, a stuttering 250 pound 
giant named McGregor, had cried out in the night, 
"Goo-Goo-Goo-Good Lord, I'm going. — De whole 
earth sinkin , . ,, These hardy natives had weathered 
fierce storms before, but this one was heart-breaking, 
killing. The captain of the boat, one of the finest men 
I have ever known, died later, a broken man. 

Aside from minor damage to decks and rigging, our 
vessels and equipment were not hurt in the least. 
Even the light was still burning under the colour filters. 
The camera men had nursed this delicate mechanism 
throughout the storm. 

An hour later I was at the lagoon a mile and a half 
distant, heavy-hearted. As I approached I saw the 
camp had been swept entirely away. Only a few 
figures moved about. Fearfully, I ran up the beach to 
investigate. Meeting one of the fellows — I couldn't 

214 



THE AUTHOR DESCENDING THE 
WITH HIS LITTLE DAUGHTER. "CAPTAIN" SY 



* 







TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

tell who it was for his body and face were matted with 
the sticky sand — I asked for the others. In a dazed 
manner he waved his hand toward the holes and the 
caves. There I found them, stunned and half stupid. 
When the camp had blown away they had run for the 
holes and had fought the iguanas for possession of this, 
the only refuge. It had been a fight for existence, too 
awful to contemplate. I started to check up and see if 
they were all there. Only one was missing, the girl 
Peggy. She was nowhere to be seen. I ran over the 
low ridge to the back of the reef. Glittering in the 
sand I saw the tangled strings and keys of the guitar. 
Gone was the box with the list of old songs. Nearby 
in the wreckage was a piece of a door with a lock on it. 
There was only one lock on the island — on Peggy's 
cabin. God ! If anything had happened to that girl, 
I 

I looked up and from behind the jagged ledge of a 
coral rock came Peggy, smiling, radiant. After that 
night of wet hell, she had just been taking a swim. 
Now everyone was accounted for. I took her hand, 
and in her twinkling Irish eyes I saw that she caught the 
significance of my greeting when I said: 

"Good morning, Miss Fortune." 

No one had been lost, and except for their battering, 
our fleet of vessels in the lagoon was safe. But how 
would Hollywood re-act to this? I hated to think of it. 
As for food and supplies, there were none. Luckily 

216 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

our flagboat with its heroic crew was still available and 
I was making ready to return to Nassau over the milk- 
white sea, dotted with floating wreckage, when a 
rescue boat came up from Nassau to look for us. It 
was a big stout ship and I was glad to see it, and leaving 
a skeleton crew in charge, I took all hands down to our 
main headquarters for a change of clothing and a bath, 
to come back refreshed and ready to proceed with the 
work. At Nassau the awful news came over the wire. 
The storm had gone on to the Florida coast and had 
almost wrecked the city of Miami. Ships had been 
swept far up on the mainland and hundreds of lives 
lost in the Everglades section. 

And together with news of the frightful disaster, I 
found in my mail an account of a Hollywood hurricane 
on The Mysterious Island. The first three reels of the 
portion of the picture that was being filmed in the 
studio had been re-shot and still the supervisor was not 
satisfied. The director, a Frenchman, despairing of ever 
being able to suit the supervisor, had given up in disgust 
and left for his home in Paris. Even though I lacked the 
details, I knew it had been a tempest that had rivalled 
in intensity the one that we had just been through. 
Now a new director who hailed from Denmark was 
assigned to the studio half of The Mysterious Island. 

After an exchange of wires with the studio heads it 
was decided that we should rebuild and go on. This I 
did on the definite understanding that none of my crew 

217 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

or company was to mention the word hurricane, or 
anything in any way pertaining to it. By now the 
hellish noise, if not the fear of it, was gone, and even 
the smell of it, a very potent factor, had left our nostrils. 
Surely the tropical demons of Nature must be satisfied 
after dealing out two such terrific blasts. Within ten 
days the fluid dust from the bottom of the sea, com- 
posed of dissolved white marl, had settled. The water 
was as clear as crystal, like the great blue bowl of the 
sky above. And once more we were filming our 
scenes. 

Meantime we rushed through the work of rebuilding 
the camp, this time much more substantially than 
before, using less canvas and more wood. Although it 
was a makeshift, the main building was quite habitable. 
Peggy was given a brand new cabin with quarters for 
her maid, and with the aid of an army of Nassau car- 
penters and native help we were soon in full swing 
again. One of our doubles, having nothing to do in 
his leisure hours, jokingly chalked up the hurricanes, 
painting them in black on the side of the building. 

"Hurricane No. I, Sunday, July 25th. 
Hurricane No. 2, Friday, September 24th/ ' 

And then, to extend his humour, he added: 

"Hurricane No. 3 " 

218 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

This was supposed to be funny. No one had ever 
heard of three in a row. 

And yet when the next full moon arrived in all its 
resplendent glory, the inevitable signs appeared again. 
We were in for another hurricane. For this one we 
were prepared. Unless there was to be a tidal wave, 
causing a great rise of the sea that would carry us off 
the island, I had figured we could weather it out, and 
I gave orders to stick to our guns. The entire fleet 
was anchored securely in the lagoon and as the storm 
increased and the night came on, most of the crew 
came ashore to take refuge in the main camp building. 

I saw the way to utilize this man power and also the 
lumber supply outside and I got the men busy. Com- 
bining the tricks of seamanship and the art of carpen- 
tering, I had them lace and interlace planking across the 
framework inside the building. Great timbers were 
brought in to brace the walls. It was an ungainly 
looking job, but most effective. Crowding into the 
building with the crews came the Nassau carpenters, 
with their big straw hats still on their heads. 

It was going to be a long wait, and packed into this 
one building everyone was using every ounce of weight 
and strength he possessed to keep himself and the 
building from being blown into the sea. It was stifling 
hot, for every opening was closed to the elements. 
Blasts of the storm would all but tear the building 
away, then would die down, only to come on again 

219 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

with renewed fury. Peggy had been provided with a 
cot which was under the dining-room table. She was 
fast asleep and her black maid stretched out on a plank 
beside her was snoring. I looked at the huddle of 
humanity about me. The whole scene was strangely 
illuminated by the glow of a few smoking lanterns 
which added to the stifling heat. Suddenly I realized 
how weary I was of it all. 

The noise was terrific. The wind screeched like a 
maniac. Every crack and crevice served as a siren and 
the rain pelted upon the walls like the staccato reports 
of a machine-gun. 

Then I began to hear strange new sounds. Over and 
above the roar of the hurricane with its fiendish 
crescendoes, I heard voices. Was I going to crack up? 
Was I going mad ? They were human voices. I could 
swear to it. Men, women, even children were crying. 
I grabbed hold of Stallings and asked him if he could 
hear anything. Yes, he could. They were human 
voices — we were both sure of it — growing in volume, 
moaning and screaming. It all sounded unearthly. 

Suddenly the canvas portion of the building bulged 
in and a face was thrust through a slit. What a face! 
I'll never forget it. It was that of an old darkey medicine 
man. The story the battered old countenance told in 
an instant was one of fear, pain, torture — hopelessness. 
I soon found out the reason, for as we jumped up and 
pulled the fellow in, he fell exhausted, and a stream of 

220 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

men, women, and children, with babies, pigs, and 
chickens, came tumbling after him. Some were crying, 
others were laughing, a curious trait of the negro, who 
can produce a primitive laugh when it's time for 
white foLks , tears. Soon I was to realize that I was the 
host, and that we had guests from a shipwreck. Lost 
in the hurricane, these poor souls had scudded across 
the sea, finally to splinter their vessel on our shores, 
but thankful to God that they had found land. Seeing 
the dull glow of light in our building they had crawled 
along the reefs until they had reached it. 

We did what we could for them. Soon the mothers 
were nursing their young. The pigs and chickens had 
been segregated. Most prominent of all in the confusion 
was one shapely young coloured girl who had hurt her 
knee. That injured knee became of paramount import- 
ance to the whole motley crew of the shipwreck. There 
was a howling demand for it to be cared for. In my 
bag I carried a bottle of liniment for a metatarsal weak- 
ness I suffered in one of my feet and my liniment was 
handed over. They poured it on in profusion until the 
pain in the injured knee was relieved. Presently I 
found myself becoming dizzy owing to the heat and 
the combined odours of the mass of humanity. We 
were almost stifling. Something had to be done. 

I conferred with the old medicine man. He agreed 
that with the first lull of the storm he could take some 
of his hardier men and go elsewhere. I mentioned 

221 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the caves, but not the iguanas. He said he had dragged 
a mainsail ashore and could take about half of his 
crowd and get out before morning. In the next lull 
he went. There was a general sigh of relief. But the 
next thing we heard was an ungodly yell and they all 
came back into the tent again. They had seen ghosts! 
Creatures were after them! What had happened was 
that in crawling up into the underbrush they had met 
the nine or ten dummies we had used in rehearsing our 
diving scenes, and running into cold outstretched arms 
had been too much. They were in again, all but the 
old medicine man. When daylight came I found him 
rolled up in his mainsail like a silkworm in a cocoon. 

The flagship arrived with supplies and mail before 
sundown the next day. Again we had lost nothing 
but time, and when the water cleared we were ready 
to proceed. We were fast nearing the end of our new 
scheduled list of scenes. This time I couldn't help what 
Hollywood thought of it. I would see this thing 
through no matter what happened. 

And then came news of the strange coincidence that 
was to round off the making of The Mysterious Island. 
In the batch of mail I received from the States was a 
bulky package. It proved to be a voluminous manu- 
script, a new version of the story. The director who 
had succeeded the great Frenchman had re-made the 
first three reels in perfect style and tempo to suit the 
supervisor. There were loud cheers. But it was the 

222 



THE MILLION-DOLLAR MYSTERY 

director's turn now. He didn't like the rest of the story. 
There was another pitched battle. Another terrific 
disturbance of positive hurricane intensity. The eminent 
director walked out. Back to his home in Denmark. 
He was through. 

We were now matched in stormy blasts. Hollywood 
and the Bahamas, three each. Mine might be termed 
Acts of God, but the studio storms seemed somehow to 
lack divine dispensation. 

A few weeks later I had shot all the remaining 
scenes. Now it was our turn to go home. Studio and 
Bahamas negatives were cached, put on the shelf to 
cool, and perhaps to solidify. Then a doctor was 
called, a reel film surgeon, for a major operation was 
necessary. Once more the story was rewritten, the 
main part of the picture recast, miles of it shot and 
reshot in the studio, sending the cost sheet creeping 
toward the second quarter million. 

At last it was finished. It was heading for Broadway 
and the great public's approval, when a strange voice 
was heard — a voice that was heard around die world. 
It has never died down, for its echo was destined to 
go on growing in volume. It was Al Jolson's voice in 
the movies. Sound had arrived! And instead of a 
great super-spectacle, our picture was a hushed and 
silent spectre. 



223 







w 



Chapter XIV 



SHARKS 



A MILE deep, the Tongue of the Ocean between 
Andros and the New Providence Islands of the 
Bahamas forms a popular hunting-ground for sharks 
and game fishes in this part of the West Indies. Here I 
descended beneath the sea through the Williamson 
tube, determined to enter into the private life of the 
man-eating shark. I had prepared a feast in anticipation 
of him divulging his innermost actions and habits, 
good and bad. I seemed unwelcome at first, for in the 
eerie depths, as I cruised through the corals fringing 
the ocean wall, the absence of sharks caused me some 
concern; but after I had dumped overboard some 
fifty gallons of animal blood I was suddenly welcomed 
by these wolves of the sea witbuan enthusiasm bordering 
on madness. 

Out of the soft blue haze loomed a pack of the 
largest sharks I have ever seen. Well in advance came 
a huge Hammerhead shark, setting the pace to reach 
the bait. Looking up from below I could see that the 
cloud of blood was descending, bringing closer and 
closer this company of frenzied demons which nothing 

225 



'Determined to enter into the private life of the shark . . . " 
rHE TIGER OF THE DEEP IN HIS NATIVE HAUNTS 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

human could withstand. Soon they were all around 
me, flashing ravenous looks as they passed. I studied 
them eagerly as, crouched close to my five-foot win- 
dow, I gazed in amazement. Evidently the submarine 
cocktail of blood which I had provided had merely 
whetted their appetites and obviously the sharks were 
hungry for the meat course I personally represented. 

Singly and in pairs they came head on, right at me, 
bumping their snouts against the invisible barrier that 
kept us apart. Would my glass withstand a blow from 
the Hammerhead? I could see it menacingly near 
with its thirteen-foot body of rippling muscles and a 
gleam in its wide-set eyes that startled me. 

For the first time I saw in the eyes of the sharks before 
me a glow of warmth, a passionate look, not of affection 
for me, but evidence of the killing urge that was driving 
them to attack. In all my thrilling experiences among 
deepsea creatures, I have never before felt so crowded. 
My three-ton observation chamber was actually being 
jostled. I was rooted to the spot, spell-bound, while 
watching the mad dau.ce of the demons. Attuned to 
the ordinary noises about me, I suddenly became aware 
of a strange new sound playing on my ear drums, 
rasping and chilling, like the croaking of a« giant frog 
accompanied by grinding of teeth. Searching for its 
source, I found that a few inches away from me one 
of the heaviest of the sharks had started to chew his 



way in! 



226 



SHARKS 

I drew back to watch its bulging eyes staring at me. 
A glance along the massive body revealed a heavy mot- 
tling of hunger blotches, adding terrifying meaning to 
the uncanny sound that was echoing through my 
metal stronghold — the crunching of the shark's saw- 
like incisors around the edge of my window. 

I had signalled to my crew above to lower down a 
heavy baited hook. Its entrance on the scene immedi- 
ately turned the tide of events, as the shark that took 
the hook was pounced upon by the others. The sting 
of their teeth drove the captive to frenzy and, ripping 
free from the hook, it dashed off badly wounded with 
the pack close behind. That was the last I saw of them. 

That night our vessel was anchored out on the blue- 
black edge of the tongue of the ocean. After a hard 
day's work in the region of the sharks, my men were 
resting about the deck and down in the open hold. 
In view of my plans to demonstrate that sharks will 
attack a man, I desired more evidence to prove my 
case. In my past work I had had one or two native 
Bahama divers who would drive a knife into a shark, 
and among my present crew I felt sure of being able 
to persuade at least one of the splendid diving boys to 
carry out my experiment, provided there was a margin 
of safety to himself. The fact that I must be behind 
the camera necessitated someone else's doing the outside 
work with the shark. 

I soon found that super-salesmanship was going to be 

227 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

necessary to make any impression; the courage of these 
men had been considerably shattered by hurricanes 
and some harrowing experiences in the previous 
months. Most of the crew were from Andros Island, 
where a vessel had recently been wrecked, and some of 
them swore as eye witnesses that many of the victim j 
had been devoured by sharks. However, I began to offer 
inducements, money in increasing amounts, and then 
various articles I knew the crew coveted. Finally I 
caught sight of Ward, one of my new star divers, and 
recalled seeing him fondly gazing upon my dress clothes 
one night when he had rendered some valet service. 
Ward was about to get married. So I shot an arrow 
into the air. I offered to give my full-dress suit to any 
man who would take his knife in hand and attack a 
shark. Ward was nibbling at the bait. Then I added to 
the full-dress suit the further inducement of the starched 
white shirt and the patent leather shoes. Ward was 
hooked. His ebony countenance shone with antici- 
pation. In imagination I am sure he saw himself dolled 
up in that dress-suit and I was perfectly willing, even 
anxious, to see him so adorned. Now he was willing 
to go the limit in the shark fight; he asked only one 
thing more, a wing collar, which I gladly promised to 
donate. 

"Just think,' , I remarked with earnest enthusiasm, 
"for one short minute's work you will get a hundred 
dollar full-dress suit complete.' ' 

228 



7 have found the shark to be a cunning, shifty antagon 
A MAN-EATER HOOKED, BUT NOT YET CONQUEI 









\ 









1 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Then up from the depths of the hold came a funereal 
voice, "Yes, Ward goin' fight dat shark, goin' get dat 
suit, and life in everlasting." 

I did not want to lose the ground I had gained, and 
to keep the men buoyed up I remarked, "Well, if none 
of you fellows will pull this stunt off the way I want 
it, I'll do as I did some years ago; I'll get my old shark 
knife, dive down and do the job myself." 

Again the same voice came up from below, but now 
in a tone of total despair: 

"Boss goin' get his knife — goin' fight dat shark — 
and then — what we goin' tell de Missus?" 

Eventually the scheme was abandoned. 

In all, I have found the shark to be a cunning, shifty 
antagonist against whom lam tempted to offer some 
words of warning. While there is hardly one chance 
in a million that you may need to recall my advice, 
I suggest that if you ever find yourself overboard with 
a shark coming for you, don't "Keep cool." Get busy! 
Kick up! Splash! This action may help, for a shark is 
generally cautious in attack and will likely turn away 
for a while before returning. Moreover, by no means 
take the immediate presence of a shark lightly, and feel 
safe because the upright dorsal fin indicates that the shark 
has not turned over, for I can assure you that a shark 
does not have to turn over to bite. It can close its teeth 
into a mouthful of anything without turning over one 
degree. 

230 



7 can assure you that a shark does not have to turn over to 










C" 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

The theory that because of the position of its mouth 
the shark must turn over to get into action is erroneous. 
I saw a shark head straight for a diver without turning 
over, during my filming of Twenty Thousand Leagues 
Under the Sea. Equipped with a self-contained diving- 
suit this diver was hunting with a companion in the 
coral forests along the sea-floor. Sharks were plentiful, 
for we were baiting them into our scenes, and it had 
been understood before the divers went down that if 
sharks attacked, the men should stand back to back 
with their knives and guns in readiness, and release 
streams of air bubbles from their compressed-air tanks, 
a means of frightening them off— it had worked once 
before. 

From my chamber below I sat observing the hunt in 
the mysterious setting of coral, when a big bull shark 
swung into action by circling around the divers. Back 
to back they crouched as the shark headed toward one 
of the men as if to bite at his head or shoulders. Impact 
with this huge onrushing body would easily have 
bowled over both divers. I was witnessing a rare 
demonstration of aqua-technique, for the threatened 
diver gripped the butt of his rifle to his side, and met 
the under tip of the shark's nose with the barrel as it 
rushed at him. Then, rising widi all his strength, he 
shoved the head of the man-eater up, hurtling the grey 
body over his shoulder. With his head encased in a 
copper hood providing little more than a peep-hole 

232 



SHARKS 

to see through, it is not strange that the other diver, 
with his back to the scene, knew nothing about the 
thrill his quick-thinking companion had experienced, 
or how near he had been to actual contact with the 
monster. 

At the surface I have seen sharks repeatedly attack 
widiout turning over to bite. Once, with a slaughtered 
bull for bait, I watched a shark, swimming in normal 
position with dorsal fin upright, cut away a huge hip 
steak and dash off, still on the level, with the tail of the 
bull waving from the side of its mouth. 

The porpoise-like roll of the shark as it comes to the 
surface, exposing an eye and the side of its white belly, 
may have given rise to the theory that it must turn 
over to bite, although the main reason for the man- 
oeuvre is to raise an eye above water in order to take 
an observation. 

Sharks will fight with unbounded fury for food. 
I recall two that thrust their heads over the gunwale 
of a boat to get at a chunk of meat that had been 
snatched away from them in the sea. Side by side they 
pressed forward, snapping their teeth as we beat them 
with wood and iron. Finally, one of my men used an 
axe, chopping viciously at their heads, and reluctantly 
they retreated. 

A sea captain recounted an incident to me which 
illustrates the voraciousness of the shark. One day, in 
a calm sea, with his vessel casting a deep shadow on the 

2 33 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

surface, he noticed the dark form of a shark lying in 
wait alongside. Then a man going forward threw a 
shadow on the water, and, like a flash, the shark darted 
out, snapping at the moving image. 

An eye-witness told me of an accident on ship- 
board which cast a live man into the sea in a tropical 
port infested with sharks. The greedy killers crowded 
in on him so fiercely that he was pushed up from the 
water, and was seen to jump from nose to nose of the 
demons before he slipped and was lost. 

Entering the reef area off Andros Island one evening 
in a twenty-five-foot motor boat, I was seated near 
Dr. Roy W. Miner of the American Museum of 
Natural History when a tremendous thump under the 
stern of the boat seemed to indicate that we had struck 
a reef, though deep water surrounded us. We jumped 
to the stern to look and there in our wake we saw a full- 
grown shark rolling over and over and bleeding from 
a gash across its throat. Evidently the shark had taken 
the underside of our boat for a speeding fish and had 
risen from the depths to drive its teeth into the planking 
near our propeller. Our engine was stopped by the 
impact as the whirling blades cut into its diroat. The 
shaft was bent and the stuffing box broken, ending the 
usefulness of the motor boat for some time. 

While the shark seems willing to bite into anything 
that looks like food, it can be particular at times. I 
recall one incident when such nicety was displayed. 

2 34 



SHARKS 

While cleaning the outside of my observation window, 
well below the sea, a native Bahaman diver was sur- 
prised to see a shark reflected in the glass and right 
behind him. He dodged behind the metal chamber 
making quick time to the surface on a winding course 
around the tube. I had witnessed his hasty exit and 
the reason for it. The shark did not, however, follow 
him, but was attracted to the wad of absorbent cotton 
the boy had used for cleaning the glass. Expanded, the 
cotton was drifting away with the current, when the 
shark hungrily took it into its mouth, only to expel it at 
once. Apparently the lack of appropriate taste or smell 
must have been detected instantly by this particular 
shark. 

Another time I noticed that sharks can be finicky 
was when they refused to devour a fellow-member of 
their family which we had caught and brought along- 
side. I could not fathom this, but later I got a clue 
when chancing to look into the capacious mouth of the 
captured shark. Squirming out of the white-roofed 
mouth was a vicious-looking black worm, and seizing 
it, I discovered that another one followed. Later I 
found evidence that his whole carcass was infested with 
these black boring worms, which undoubtedly led to 
the taboo by his comrades. However, the amazing and 
often gruesome variety of objects found from time to 
time in sharks' stomachs confirms the fact that they are 
indiscriminate scavengers of the sea. 

2 35 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

I once found a four-foot barracuda intact inside a 
shark, thus settling the question of supremacy between 
these two rivals in at least one instance. Another time 
when off the Bahamas a shark was caught and hauled 
to the deck of the S.S. Munargo. A commotion from 
its interior prompted an opening which revealed a 
lively hawk's-bill turtle. The officers of the ship took 
the turtle to New York and found it a more congenial 
home at the aquarium where it continued to live in 
vast content under the appropriate name of Jonah. 

The main purpose of a shark's teeth is not for chewing 
but for cutting up food. A goat might chew his 
dinner of tin cans, but a shark is not so particular, 
depending entirely upon its powerful digestive appara- 
tus to take care of them. 

Being a cannibal, there is nothing a shark likes better 
than a chunk of another shark. With such choice bait, 
and just for the sport of it, I hooked a fighting terror 
one day and after battling with him to the limit of my 
strength with a 200-foot rope I brought him alongside 
my diving-boat. Then, bending over from the deck 
with two men behind me, our united pull on the line 
lifted the shark's head out of the water and a native 
boy reached down with a sheath-knife to lance the 
hook loose to let the fish go. 

As the knife did its work, the shark's powerful tail 
lashed out at us, striking my men who, in stumbling, 
pushed me overboard. For one hair-raising instant I 

236 



SHARK BAIT— A GIANT RAY AND A NATIVE DIVES 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

hung helpless in the air and the next thing I knew I was 
astride the back of the plunging devil, and was actually 
riding him under the sea! In the churned-up water 
I could not see which was the way to the surface, but 
striking out wildly I eventually reached it. Flat on deck 
my men, with necks stretched out like turtles, were 
fearfully and tearfully waiting for my return. Good 
fellows, but, after all, merely waiting. It was lucky for 
me that the teeth of the shark had not closed on some 
part of my anatomy or even my clothing, for I certainly 
had been close to my finish. 

In spite of the evil propensities of sharks, they were 
essential to my undersea drama. Once I staged an 
expensive attraction, spending $250 on bait in an 
endeavour to get one shark to cavort through a vitally 
important scene. While the creatures had always been 
plentiful hitherto, this time no sharks were to be seen 
in our chosen location. Hundreds of pounds of tempt- 
ing morsels were spread round the vicinity, but no 
sharks appeared. For a week we continued our en- 
deavours, but had no luck. Mutterings and murmur- 
ings were growing in volume among my natives about 
the glorious time we had had with sharks when once 
we used a sleek black bull for bait. Like the legendary 
luck of the black cat, they were sure that a sleek black 
bull would bring the sharks. It was a whim, I knew, 
but to please them I sent out a call for a black bull. 

While a plentiful supply of loggerhead turtles, sheep 

238 



SHARKS 

and pigs had failed to tempt any sharks, I read in the 
papers that an epidemic of them had spread panic along 
the Atlantic beaches. The sharks were roving with a 
vengeance. And with this news came the response to 
our call for a bull. A man appeared ready to offer up a 
black-and-white cow. 

I paid a personal visit to his proffered sacrifice and 
saw immediately that her days were numbered. She 
was literally dying on her feet. The wily owner had 
decided to cash in on the cow before the cow cashed 
in on him, but his price was prohibitive, so I decided 
to continue with the bait we had. Then we received 
word that the price of the cow had been greatly reduced, 
and I planned to acquire her the next time I visited the 
port for supplies. 

Entering the harbour next day, we sighted a suspicious- 
looking object moving down the current. Yes, it was 
our high-priced cow! Fate had stepped in and delivered 
her into our hands. Weary of waiting, she had suc- 
cumbed to her ailments, and her owner, to comply 
with the law, had taken the carcass out to sea. Under 
the heat of the tropical sun it was fast turning green. 

Nevertheless, getting to the windward side of it, I 
ordered a rope to be thrown. Time was the essence of 
th'e enterprise and the speed and deftness of the roping 
would have done credit to a wild-west cowboy. Will 
Rogers himself couldn't have done a neater job. 
Then the crew began to grumble. They were positive 

239 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

no shark would ever bite into that, but I ordered that 
the carcass be displayed to the sharks. Two hundred 
feet to the leeward we let it drift, then started to draw 
it toward our scene, but always we carefully stayed to 
windward. There was no other position livable under 
the circumstances. 

Soon the most voracious-looking monster of a shark 
made its appearance. Swiftly it circled around the cow 
and an instant later it had dashed into the carcass and 
was tossing it up as a horse would shake a feed-bag of 
oats. We could hear its head thumping about in the 
interior of the unfortunate cow. Like the tom-toms 
of the jungle, the sound seemed to serve as a call, for 
almost immediately a lively school of sharks appeared 
and we shot our big undersea scene successfully. 

A celebration was in order, for to add to the tri- 
umphant culmination of our fine day's work, it was 
Thanksgiving Day. Though in a foreign port, our chef 
had seen to it that we had a turkey. It was a fine- 
looking twenty-pounder and my hungry staff prepared 
to do it justice. 

Dressed and refreshed we sat down to dinner, but 
no one had reckoned on the influence o( the old green 
cow. It made cowards of us all. No sooner did anyone 
lift a succulent morsel to his mouth than he put it 
down again. We were hungry but without the courage 
to continue. Dinner came to an abrupt end. My 
disgruntled staff went off to town for a change of 

240 



SHARKS 

scenery and some liquid refreshment. About midnight 
they arrived en masse for a raid on the turkey. They 
felt equal to it by then. But a search of the icebox 
revealed that the bird had flown. Our chef, after the 
time-honoured custom of all coloured servants in the 
hospitable South, had carried it off to his waiting 
relatives. There wasn't a wishbone or even a pin- 
feather left. Needless to say, my staff was ready for 
breakfast early next morning. 



241 



Chapter XV 



SUCKER-FISH 



THE late Prince of Monaco told me a story about 
sucker-fish which in brief reveals the nature of these 
odd little citizens of the sea. As is well known, the 
prince had devoted his life and fortune to oceanography. 
He was out in the Mediterranean one day when an 
immense shark was captured which he decided to 
preserve for his collection. In order to hoist the monster 
on board his yacht, he had a heavy boom lowered over 
the side. The crew had hooked tackle to the shark and 
were about to haul it from the sea when the prince 
gave orders to capture the several sucker-fish, or 
remora, which were darting about the shark. 

This was no easy task in the open sea but the men 
went to work. The remora simply refused to be 
caught. Despairing of ever being able to capture any 
of them, the prince told the men to abandon their 
efforts and haul up the shark. 

With a chugging of winches and crunching of gears, 
the shark rose from the sea. It was halfway out of the 
water when with a whirl and a flash three or four 
sucker-fish shot alongside the body of the shark, and 

242 



"They hold on with bull-dog tei 
SUCKER FISH (REMORA) ON THE PECTORAL FINS OF A 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

clapping their suction disks to his skin, hung on like 
grim death. The shark was lifted clear of the water. 
The boom swung over, and when the prince's big 
specimen was deposited safely on the deck the sucker- 
fish, wide-eyed and gasping, were still hanging on. 

The adhesive powers of these fishes are truly remark- 
able. They hold on with bull-dog tenacity and at times 
will allow themselves to be torn asunder rather than 
release their grip. To the ancients this fish was known 
as Echeneis, or "The Ship Holder," for it was believed 
that they possessed the power to hold a vessel motion- 
less. Pliny, the naturalist, wrote, "Why should our 
fleets and armadas at sea carry such turrets on the walls 
and forecastles, when one little fish is able to arrest and 
stay perforce, our goodly and tall ships?" 

While we may scoff at such ideas, it is a fact that 
sucker-fish often get free rides by adhering to the 
bottom of vessels, sea-turtles, whales, or even humans. 
The adhesive apparatus with which Nature has endowed 
the sucker-fish is very simple. It consists of an area of 
corrugated skin on the top of the head which operates 
by creating a vacuum when pressed against any ob- 
ject. It works on the same principle as the concave 
rubber cups with hooks attached, used for hanging 
light pictures. The sucker-fish, however, has gone 
one better than man. While the ordinary suction disk 
can be attached only to a smooth, even surface, that 
of the remora will adhere firmly to rough, uneven 

244 



SUCKER-FISH 

surfaces like the horny file-like skin of a shark. To the 
naked eye, shark skin appears smooth or with a 
roughened, sandpaper-like surface, but under a magni- 
fying glass it is seen to bristle with curved sharp-pointed 
claws. Scientists who are familiar with sharks can 
determine the species merely by an examination of a 
single square inch of skin. With a few exceptions, each 
kind of shark, though inclined to roam, has its own 
particular domain in the ocean, but anywhere and every- 
where in tropical and sub-tropical seas seems to be home 
to the homeless sucker-fish. All sharks look alike to 
them. If no shark is about, any old thing that moves 
will do, turtle, fish, boat or floating timber. Their 
preference is for sharks, and in many places they are 
regarded as the pilot fish of sharks. 

I have made repeated studies in an effort to prove or 
disprove the assertion that they actually guide the 
sharks to food and warn them of danger. From my 
observations I have come to the conclusion that, in- 
directly, a sucker-fish may transmit some warning or 
information to the shark. In this manner the remora 
may "pilot'' the shark just as certain species of birds 
who perch on the backs of jungle beasts may warn their 
hosts o( danger by flying about and uttering cries of 
alarm. I believe, however, that any such service is 
merely coincidental and involuntary, and that the 
sucker-fish is just a hanger-on, taking advantage of the 
speedier fish to carry him about and provide him with 

2 45 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

free meals, which consist mainly of scraps of food left 
over or missed by his gluttonous host. But at times 
I have seen sucker-fish that were apparently doing 
some voluntary and intelligent piloting. One day I 
planted a piece of bait among the reefs on die sea 
bottom, and as a shark manoeuvred about searching 
for die titbit by sense of smell, its family of sucker-fish 
would let go, dart forward ten or twelve feet, nip at 
the bait and dash back again to the shark. This action 
was repeated again and again until the shark seemed to 
be guided to the bait which it gulped down without so 
much as a "thank you" to its pilots. 

But I do not believe that the sucker-fish carry out 
such manoeuvres for the benefit of the shark. There is 
method in their madness. Their motives are purely 
selfish. They have learned that when a shark dines he 
is untidy and observes no rules of etiquette. Shreds of 
food escape from his rapacious jaws. By being close at 
hand the remoras pick up an easy living. Do not believe 
for a moment that the sharks are grateful or even 
friendly with the sucker-fish. There is no love lost 
between the two. The shark hates everyone but 
himself, and the sucker-fish are careful to keep just 
out of reach of the monster's jaws. On more than one 
occasion I have seen the companionable sucker-fish 
actually dining on their living host, eating into an 
open wound in his flesh and gleefully enjoying the feast. 

Circus riders are no more deft and nimble in their 

246 






SUCKER-FISH 

movements than sucker-fish. When a shark glides 
close to the sea bottom, or moves among coral forests 
and reefs where he might come in contact with some 
jagged projection, the remoras release their grip, turn 
a somersault and instantly affix themselves to some other 
portion of the shark's anatomy. They can release 
themselves and take a new hold in a moment. They 
are also extremely swift in their motions when the 
shark circles about in search of food. They vary in size 
from a few inches to several feet in length. While 
museum specimens are rare and usually quite small I 
have captured sucker-fish almost as large as a baseball 
bat. This is a good comparison, as they resemble 
baseball bats in the shape and lines of their bodies. 

On one occasion I captured a sucker-fish nearly three 
feet long and holding it by the tail, playfully swung it 
as if it had been a bat. Its head slapped against the side 
of the ship's cabin and instantly the adhesive disk stuck 
fast. I couldn't pull the fish away and even when I 
released my grip, it remained hanging there. 

Clowning about in their undersea arena, these 
harlequins of the deep have both amused and annoyed 
me. From my deep-sea chamber I have seen sharks 
drowned in capture, and in their death struggle I have 
seen them roll over in the pale green light of the 
depths to reveal sucker-fish groping about on their 
expansive white chests, like infants clinging to their 
mothers' breasts. It was almost pathetic to watch them 

2 47 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

holding fast to a dead body as if it were their only hope 
and refuge. But the instant that the deceased man-eater 
was set upon and torn to pieces by his fellows, the 
sucker-fish would shift from the dead to the living. 
At times of such carnage dozens of sucker-fish could be 
seen cruising about, darting this way and that, searching 
for a likely spot on which to cling. 

My photosphere offers a most inviting mooring- 
place for these homeless orphans. It is only natural 
that they frequently become attached to it. No doubt 
the metal walls of the chamber appear to them as some 
great sea monster whose size promises plenty of food 
in left-overs. The smooth surface offers easy sticking 
for the creatures, and it is quite possible that they enjoy 
admiring their own reflections in the glass window of 
the chamber. 

I have made many photographic studies of these 
fishes before my window, and have had unique oppor- 
tunities to study the underside working of their suction 
pads, and watch the corrugated ridges of the sucking 
grips as they quiver and cling to the outside of the glass. 

I once saw a colony of a dozen or so performing 
apparently for my sole benefit, like so many trained 
pets. It was then that I discovered that a loaf of bread, 
weighted and lowered into the sea was choice food for 
them. They went for it like children after sweets, their 
big frog-mouths and fine sharp teeth making quick 
work of the welcome meal. After that I gave them each 

248 



SUCKER-FISH 

day their favourite loaf of bread. Shortly after I was 
forced to part company with them. I was preparing 
to film a very important scene, and it was essential that 
I had a perfectly clear field of vision so that my lenses 
could penetrate to the limit of their reach. A scene 
costing a small fortune was about to be shot when 
suddenly the school of sucker-fish interrupted my work. 
Despite every attempt to drive them away they would 
persist in coming across my field of vision or fastening 
themselves to the glass. Then, to make matters worse, 
the entire lot of remoras came swarming about my 
window and to my amazement I discovered that they 
were depositing a jelly-like mucus on the glass. Im- 
mediately I summoned a diver to descend and clean it, 
but there was every likelihood that the sucker-fish 
would return and spoil the scene. So I planned a little 
farewell party for them. Into the sea my men lowered 
a big loaf of bread containing a surprise. It was dyna- 
mite. Down into the sea came the loaded loaf and the 
sucker-fish rushed at it like hungry wolves. Slowly my 
assistants moved the farewell banquet away fiom the 
boat and my photochamber. When at a safe distance, 
they fired the charge. There were no more remoras. 



249 



( <* "< 



:w 



Chapter XVI 

EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

TO descend into the mysterious and extravagantly 
beautiful region of ocean depths for the Field 
Museum of Natural History was to be my next experi- 
ence. 

From the time I had taken my first picture of a fish 
"at home" beneath the waters of Chesapeake Bay, 
scientists had evinced a lively interest in my photo- 
sphere and its possibilities. Here was something new 
and challenging. With telescopes the heavens had been 
swept in the search for the secrets of the stars. Now 
the Williamson Tube with its submarine eye provided 
a means of solving the riddles of the ocean. 

Many celebrated zoologists and oceanographers had 
descended in my submarine chamber and had pried into 
the private lives of fishes. I had made many photo- 
graphs for purely scientific purposes, and had been 
associated with the work of two major scientific expedi- 
tions. My first introduction to field work under the 
sea was with Dr. George Engelhardt of the Brooklyn 
Museum while engaged in obtaining specimens for a 
coral reef group. Later I joined forces with Dr. Roy W. 

251 



"Into the mysterious region of the ocean's depths ..." 
DEEP SEA FERNS AND BRAIN CORAL MAKE EXQUISITE DESIGNS 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

Miner of the American Museum of Natural History in 
obtaining forty tons of coral and invaluable under- 
ocean records from the great barrier reef at Andros 
Island for the museum. 

With the peculiar knowledge gained through years 
of explorations I was by no means a novice at scientific 
work in the deep when the Field Museum requested 
me to obtain for them undersea settings for their pro- 
posed display of West Indian fish life at home in the 
sea. I gladly consented. I was to lead my first scientific 
expedition. 

"Material for seven habitat groups of Bahama 
fishes, with coral and accessories/ ' was the museum's 
description of its requirements. That description, 
expressed so concisely, covered a vast amount of detail. 

Suppose, for instance, I had been required to collect 
material for a habitat group of West Indian natives. 
First, I would have to depict a family at home, man, 
woman and child, their palm-thatched hut surrounded 
by trees and shrubbery. The donkey, chickens, dogs 
and cats, mocking birds, lizards, even the insects in the 
vicinity would have to be recorded along with the Utter 
in the yard, husks of coco-nuts, banana peel, mango 
seeds, and rubbish. I would have to make photographic 
studies and colour sketches of all this, with the natives 
engaged in their customary tasks. Perhaps the man 
would be smoking with the ashes from his pipe dropped 
beside him, and just to show how important little 

252 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

things are, those ashes as they appeared on the ground 
where they fell would have to be recorded in colour 
and detail, just as faithfully as the face of the man who 
had made them. 

It would be the same with a habitat group of fish. 
Even the ripples on the sandy ocean floor would have 
to be recorded, for they are just as important as the face 
of a man-eating shark which might be the central figure 
in the setting. 

Obtaining the seven habitat groups of Bahaman fishes 
meant far more than a fishing-jaunt. I was to conduct 
a completely equipped expedition to the West Indies, 
and there under clear, tropical waters, obtain studies of 
the inhabitants of the deep, from man-eating sharks to 
butterfly-fish. I was to visit the fishes in their home in 
the coral fairyland, record their life movements and 
habits, their colour changes; how they appear to make 
love, fight, make up, and consume one another. 

The desired species were to be lifted out of die sea 
togedier with their massive coral homes, surrounding 
friends and enemies dead and alive, and shipped to the 
Field Museum. But not until the photographic and other 
records were completed could I begin the actual work of 
collecting the specimens for the groups, work that 
would involve, in addition to the necessary skill and 
scientific knowledge a prodigious amount of hard 
manual labour. But it was labour in which I took keen 
delight, for later a visitor to the Field Museum could 

2 53 




1 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

step into the Hall of the Ocean Floor and look with 
wonder at these sections of life faithfully recreated with 
all the glory and fascination of their watery world. 
If the public couldn't go to the mountain, we would 
bring the mountain to them, so to speak. We would 
accomplish this tremendous assignment of bringing 
the bottom of the sea to Chicago, and have a good 
time doing it, all within a museum budget. 

In one respect I was fortunate. I didn't have to hunt 
for my working locations, for I had already seen diem 
near a little palm-studded island called Sandy Cay, in 
the Bahama Islands. There on my honeymoon the 
previous year I had cruised near to the exact coral 
forest I now desired to invade. There I could lift my 
great coral specimens and complete my undersea records 
with the capture of myriads of beautiful rainbow-hued 
fishes, along with others which were ugly and repul- 
sive. 

It was a blustery day early in March when I left 
Chicago. In its light mantle of snow, the Field Museum 
beside Lake Michigan afforded a striking contrast to the 
waving palm-trees on the sunny isles that awaited me in 
the tropics. To add to the pleasure and problems of the 
moment, an important item of our equipment and 
baggage was a tiny bundle of humanity, my six-weeks'- 
old daughter, Sylvia, a new member of the Williamson 
Submarine Expedition, born in Chicago at the same 
time diat the idea of the expedition was born, and now 

255 



THE "JULES VERNE," MOTHER-BOAT OF THE WILLIAMSON TUBE 



:v: ' I 



*.-■.;... 




EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

quite naturally going with her parents on their work 
of exploration — to the bottom of the sea. 

Creeping through the fog-bound shipping of New 
York harbour we steamed out to the broad Atlantic 
on March 18th, and in three days entered the port of 
Nassau where, after years of continued undersea 
exploration, my vessels, crew and equipment were 
established. But weeks of preparation would be 
necessary to this particular undertaking. Our museum 
work must proceed along its own particular lines. The 
haste and extravagant expenditure sometimes necessary 
to film production were not called for. 

Near the water's edge our laboratory provided roomy 
living- and working-quarters, with store-rooms for 
gear, dark-rooms, and other necessities. And in the 
harbour our odd-looking craft were anchored near the 
trim flagship Standard J. The outstanding vessel in 
freak design was the Jules Verne, mother boat of the 
Williamson Tube and my undersea photographic 
studio and equipment. Next in original design were two 
pontoons fastened together with shearlegs and overhead 
beams bearing chain hoists and gear which I intended 
to use for lifting huge coral formations from the bed 
of the sea. This odd little fleet which would include 
numerous motor-boats and tenders and our newly 
chartered smack with wells for keeping fish alive, would 
play a large part in bringing about the museum results. 

On the shores of several of the outer islands I planned 

257 



jtt diving suits and equipment were needed" 
RRS AT WORK IN ROCK CORAL 










V 






"' 



»*^ I 



. • -IP- 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

to set up beach camps at locations nearest to the big 
corals and other specimens I intended to gather from 
the sea-floor. Such camps called for tents, cots, furnish- 
ings and supplies, including mountains of tinned food, 
rolls of mosquito netting, to say nothing of a fresh- 
water supply, perhaps the most important requirement 
of all. And as hundreds of fish of all kinds and sizes 
were to be captured, there were all manner of fish- 
nets, traps, grains and harpoons, lines and hooks; the 
latter varying in size from immense shark hooks larger 
than umbrella handles to tiny pin hooks for the little 
fellows. 

The coral-lifting process was more than a weighty 
one. Often these corals are veritable trees — the bigger 
the better for museum purposes — weighing several 
tons, and as firmly rooted to the bed of the sea as forest 
trees on land. In fact, they are even more securely 
rooted, for the roots of corals are of hard limestone 
calling for crowbars, sledges, drills and possibly dyna- 
mite in order to free them. 

While native divers without suits or helmets would 
serve for collecting the smaller specimens, full diving- 
suits and equipment were needed where long periods 
of work beneath the sea were necessary. 

Besides these there were tongs, grabs, grappling-irons 
and similar devices for lifting coral masses, while last, 
but by no means least, were the cameras, plates and 
film, sketch pads, note-books, canvas, paints and 

259 



m this paradise, as though painted on a bark-riot h ..." 

"IIS PHOTOGRAPH APPEARS ON THE NEW BAHAMAN AIR MAIL STAMP 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

colours, for we were to photograph or sketch our 
specimens in their natural surroundings before lifting 
them to the world above. 

On April 14th everything needful had been secured, 
and under ideal weather conditions I moved out to sea 
with my little fleet and headed for my chosen location 
which was about eight miles from Nassau, between 
Sandy Cay and Little Green Cay, with Rose Island 
stretching across the horizon to the south. 

Immediately there was a hum of activity aboard the 
Jules Verne. The big studio windows received their 
final polish and the observation and photographic 
chamber was lowered into the sea through the well or 
opening in the vessel's hull. Section after section of the 
tube was attached and the flexible submarine tube 
neared the bottom. Climbing down the tube, I adjusted 
the ear 'phones, glanced about at my undersea sur- 
roundings and signalled to the men to lower away 
until the chamber of the photosphere was within a 
few inches of the floor of the sea. Then, responding to 
my submarine directions, the Jules Verne moved ahead. 
Before I left the surface of the sea I knew from indica- 
tions that we were near a maze of reefs. "A labyrinth 
of coral" describes the nature of the coral forest several 
square miles in area which I wished to enter and explore. 

Skimming over the bed of the ocean, which was 
swept by the current until the white sand bottom 
showed ripples like a windswept desert, I saw the coral 

260 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

kingdom looming in the distance. Majestically, like a 
true forest on the edge of a plain, arose great coral 
masses, dimly outlined against the translucent back- 
ground of the horizon of this wonder world under the 
sea. Slowly we closed in until we were in the midst of 
a sea garden at die very portals of the forest. 

Now I knew that our group material was near, if 
not directly at hand. All about me the corals teemed 
with life. The scene was brilliantly illuminated by the 
light of the sun, for down to sixty feet, under ideal 
conditions, I can observe and photograph without the 
aid of my banks of artificial lights. 

In this paradise, as though painted on a backcloth, 
I could see fish of the most exotic hues lurking in the 
coral. A boar grunt stared idly at a pair of butterfly- 
fishes escorting their tiny offspring right past his nose, 
and on into a miniature forest of lavender sea feathers. 
Sleek, brilliant slippery dicks, pudding wives, and old 
wives, mingled with sailors' choice; and down in a 
grotto, a wobbly cow-fish came poking her horns 
through the parade. In shadowy nooks were parrot-fish 
as brilliantly coloured as their feathered namesakes, 
along with angelfish, gold, black, and green — tropical 
beauties, only to be surpassed by a gorgeous queen 
triggerfish which glided serenely past, her dainty fins 
like trailing draperies of blue, green and gold. 

Signalling a direction to the mother ship above, I 
moved close to a coral head where yellow grunts were 

261 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

massed by the hundreds, motionless against purple sea 
fans, rising from the giant clump of Orbicella. Here I 
stopped and watched the silent drama of the under- 
sea. 

A more peaceful school of fish could hardly be 
imagined. They seemed to sleep, yet their eyes, like 
perfect gems, flashed light. A closer view revealed 
them all wide-awake, vibrating with life, their motion- 
less grouping a clever camouflage. The risk of being 
devoured is much greater to each individual if moving 
about in the open. Lazily the column disbanded, but 
with a few graceful turns the mass re-formed with all 
heads and eyes turned one way. Then suddenly there 
was a flurry and two of the grunts paired off and faced 
each other with fins extended and mouths wide open. 
They approached head on and then, " Smack !" it 
looked like a kiss ! Then quivering with animation 
they sidled off together, lips pressed tight, disappearing 
through holes in the coral and on into the shadows. 

I felt as though I was spying on petting parties in the 
park and shifted my gaze from the grunts to a pair of 
schoolmasters. There it was again — the gaping mouths 
pressed close, then they broke apart to disport in a 
flashing chase, then contact again and again, with 
sometimes a third party pursuing and biting the back 
of one of the pair engaged. Could this be the eternal 
triangle ? 

Then all this inexplicable business ceased in an instant. 

262 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

Some signal of alarm must have gone out, for all the 
fish dashed quickly to shelter. Alert, they watched 
from cover, eyes rolling up and around. The next 
moment the sea was darkened, as thousands of big 
hungry jacks invaded the submarine Eden. Silently 
they flashed past and were gone. Scarcely had the 
raiders vanished when the bright-hued reef fish came 
forth and resumed life as before, with the tropical sun 
pouring a barrage of light rays down through the ever- 
changing waves at the surface, causing a weaving pat- 
tern of light to flow over them and all forms of life 
below. 

What an amazing group for the museum! I marked 
this as number one — for consideration. I had not yet 
entered the reefs proper and could afford to look round. 
Was not the Field Museum's code "Excellence in all 
things"? But a feeling of relaxation and languour 
stole over me. My eyes feasted on the wonders of the 
sea as I sat at ease. The strain of the city and civilization 
melted away. I was spell-bound — lost in restful reverie 
as the spiritual influence of the undersea held me, and 
time passed by as nothing. I was strangely content. 

But this mental drifting with the tide could not 
endure for long. My instinct to photograph spurred me 
to action, and I shot movies and still pictures at a 
tremendous rate. Working my camera widi both hands 
busy, I caught a signal from far above through my ear 
'phones, and suddenly realized that I had momentarily 

263 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

forgotten my wife and her wish to give baby Sylvia 
a first glimpse — a fish-eye view of life in the deep. 

I scrambled to die surface to meet the litde one and 
her mother. The wee " Captain" was all dressed up 
for the occasion, wearing her full naval uniform and 
cap. But how were we to get her down the tube? 
Later, her many trips below were made in a knapsack 
on my back, but her debut into the society of the 
undersea world resolved itself into a relay method of 
transportation. My faithful native diving boys and 
crew were gathered about, all grinning in admiration 
at the smiling water baby about to be rocked in the 
cradle of the deep. Grasping the plan of action and 
following my lead the men poured down the tube 
after me, stationing themselves at regular intervals up 
the tube to the top. In this manner each man in turn 
could reach up, take hold of the " Captain* ' and pass 
her between his legs to the man below. With this 
hand-me-down method she was lowered as quietly and 
gently as a descending star, from her mother's embrace 
on deck to my arms below. Although her eyes were 
wide with wonder, she made no outcry. She liked it! 

Up went the boys to their stations on deck and soon 
my wife came tripping down — no lowering or hoisting 
her as we sometimes did with visitors. She had had her 
muscles well trained to climbing the flexible tube. 

Perhaps my feelings were like those of an airman 
when he first takes his offspring for a jaunt in the 

265 



the wee 'Captain was all dressed up for the occasion 9 
IHE WILLIAMSON FAMILY INSIDE THE "JULES VERNES" 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

clouds. I knew there was no real danger, yet at first I 
could not suppress a slight feeling of apprehension for 
the little "Captain's" safety. But as I placed her on her 
mother's knee, she entirely reassured us both by her 
smile and an eager lurch to the big studio window 
where she took her first wondrous look into the strange 
world of the fishes, trying her best to thrust her chubby 
fists through the glass and seize the bright-coloured 
creatures of the deep. 

That night with all at rest, and the Jules Verne 
anchored securely in the open sea, I cruised over the 
top of die coral forest. The sea was dead calm, and 
in the bright moonlight I experienced a weird sensation 
by leaning directly over the bow of the speeding 
motor-boat as it skimmed over the surface of the sea. 
It was like flying, for the amazing transparency of the 
water revealed the moonlit sea bottom, six, ten and 
even more fathoms below, with the ghost-like coral 
formations reaching up toward the surface. Changing 
the direction of the boat at will, I followed the winding 
passages outlined by the clear white sea bottom, the 
exposed reef platform in and around the great rising 
masses of coral jungle. 

Geologically, the Bahama Islands are described as 
hardened ridges of marl or sea bottom thrust up from 
below. Great ocean depths surround and tongue into 
the island group, and the hundreds of islands and small 
cays rest mainly on a great p'ateau. At one time this 

267 



)he took her first look into the strange world of fishes" 
■~>NVICT FISH, SERGEANT MAJORS, AND SCHOOLMASTERS 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

plateau supporting the islands was one hundred feet 
higher than it is now. Apparently a great drop took 
place, and while there are no signs of volcanic or other 
force to make these changes, the islands are said to be 
steadily on the rise again. 

The coral forest over which I was now speeding in 
the moonlight might, in a few thousand years, grow 
up to form an island, a true coral island. However, the 
rocky formation of the Bahamas indicates that the mass 
of coral formed through time in this region has been 
ground up by the sea and mixed with the shells and dust 
of minute sea organisms, so that these islands, formed 
of iEolian rock, are only partly of coral formation. 

But now the virgin coral forest below bloomed 
serenely in its element. Schools offish scurried through 
the dark grottoes of this strange world I had come to 
explore. 

The next day I hurried off to Nassau to meet the 
final, and in some respects the most important, member 
of the expedition, Mr. Leon L. Pray, taxidermist 
extraordinary to the Field Museum. I have had the 
pleasure of initiating many interesting people into the 
undersea realm, but this was my first guest who was a 
master taxidermist. His work was to be an important 
feature of the group reproduction. It is not generally 
known that museums seldom use the actual body or 
skins of fish for exhibition. The most enduring are 
obtained by making a cast of the fish in life, and from 

268 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

this cast, which records every scale and marking, make 
a model. The work of colouring and finishing the 
model is later carried out in full detail, and the fish 
made to appear as it did in life. In this particular work 
Mr. Pray was an expert. 

By noon the next day with my undersea equipment 
in full operation, I had not only entered the coral 
jungle, but, by cruising around in the reef area and 
exploring from my position in the observation chamber 
at the sea floor, I had found the very centre of the coral 
mass, where I was delighted to find a large, open space 
affording a safe anchorage for my fleet. 

From this anchorage, with Pray at my side rapidly 
compiling notes and pictorial records with me, I 
piloted the photosphere back into the forest again. The 
sights along the coral avenues were amazing. All 
manner of fish-life nestled closely to the reefs. Sud- 
denly the perfect peace and quiet was broken by a 
flurry in the white sand before us. We had disturbed 
some giant rays as we came upon them almost covered 
in the sea-bed. Frantically, like great black bats, they 
whipped their wing-like fins into action, and throwing 
the sand from their backs scurried away to settle again 
in some secluded spot. That is, if they were lucky, for, 
as if from nowhere, sharks suddenly appeared and 
pursued them. Down one lane we caught a glimpse of 
a big ray being taken by sharks and torn to pieces in 
their savage jaws. Not a shred was left except the tail. 

269 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

The shark knows better than to eat this poisonous 
appendage. It is like a bull whip with a sharp poisoned 
lance in the end. Buried in the sand except for their 
periscopic eyes, the bat-like rays await their victims, 
their tails ever ready to flash in an upward curve like 
great steel springs carrying poison and death; but the 
shark's armoured hide, except for a small area, is too 
tough for the tail-battling rays. 

Continuing on through the labyrinth of coral we 
turned a corner and suddenly found ourselves in a 
clustered region of stone trees. Almost breathless with 
wonder we drifted slowly the full length of the glade, 
recording the beauties that passed in panorama before us. 
At the end we found that our passage to the open sea 
beyond was blocked by a giant palmate, a golden tree 
beneath whose spreading branches we came to a stop. 
Rising majestically from the bulbous trunk of the tree 
like hundreds of outstretched arms with upturned 
hands, the majority of the branches reached valiantly 
toward the life-giving ocean current. 

Pray had been working like mad with brush, paint 
and pencils. About one grunt an hour was the only 
sound that came from him. The colours outside the 
photosphere window were soon reproduced in his 
sketches, which fell one by one to the floor. Apart 
from the click and hum of my cameras, silence reigned 
within the chamber. 

This golden branching palmate before us, like the 

270 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

others in the glade, was a growing tree — yet as dead as 
a tombstone. A monument of pure limestone. The 
only living diing about it is its coating of animal life 
which is made up of millions of tiny polyps that swarm 
over it as they build it. Imagine the ambition of a 
colony of polyps, starting from nothing and building 
such a fantastic structure. 

What manner of creature is this prolific polyp whose 
artistic energy is supreme? Scientists who have ex- 
plored his world through the all-seeing eye of the 
microscope know all his family secrets, have watched 
his offspring and counted the ribs of his calyx. 

Perhaps it will suffice to say that the polyp is a queer 
little jelly-fish with a body as transparent as glass, and 
though he may be no larger than the proverbial pin- 
head, his body is supported by a complicated skeleton 
which he leaves to posterity when he dies. 

When searching for food in the sea-water about him* 
the polyp can throw out as lively a set of tentacles as his 
big brother, the octopus. Going one better than the 
octopus, his tentacles are loaded with poisonous darts 
to shoot down his victims if out of reach. The polyp 
is a glutton. If he ever has a stomach-ache he must hurt 
all over, for his stomach is practically all of him. He 
fills up with food that is often alive and kicking. These 
inside guests are permitted to visit each other and 
multiply until he decides to take them into his final 
mouth for digestion. 

271 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

It was in connection with this that the scientists dis- 
covered his means of colouring his building enterprises. 
Transporting a section of living coral to the laboratory 
table, they discovered through their lenses that polyps 
are particular about their menu. One group has a 
craving to feed on microscopic organisms that look 
and are coloured like oranges, while anodier group feed 
on minute creatures of a different colour, and therein 
lies the answer. If an army of polyps were labouring 
on empty stomachs the coral creation would be as pale 
as their skeletons, pure limestone white. But lo and 
behold, when the orange-eating colony all fill up with 
their "citrus" diet, as is likely in the case of the palmate 
coral, the yellow contents show through their bulging 
transparent stomachs and the tree appears golden. 
That's one way the colours are spread artistically over 
the coral mountains. 

So much for the polyp who chooses to build his 
monument of stone, but what must we think when we 
see the amazing results of one who builds a structure 
that is flexible? This polyp lays down a foundation of a 
horny substance to support his intricate masterpiece. 
The result is the gorgonias, the name the scientists have 
given these grotesque and bending varieties, a family 
which can boast of sea-plumes, exquisite lace-like sea- 
fans, sea-whips, sea-rods and weird bush forms, all 
looking like plant life but actually living animal organ- 
isms. A few feet farther on the corallines appear, look- 

272 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

ing like gorgonias and animal life, but being just as 
much plant life as the grass that grows in the sea bed. 

It is a complex trail, diis trek of creation. Does Nature 
in the sea below imitate Nature above it, or is it the 
reverse ? In the depths grow trees in gardens surrounded 
by shrubs, bushes and flowers, and gay-coloured fish 
take the place of birds. 

All life, it is said, came from the sea. Maybe the 
parrot-fish of the submarine jungle is a distant ancestor 
of the parrot that asks for a nut. We could go on for 
ever with comparisons, but hesitate we must, when we 
ponder and question what salt-water ancestors adorn 
humanity's family tree. Are polyp-like propensities 
included in the make-up of us humans who are, as a 
matter of fact, nearly all water — and salt water at that? 
Just where on the journey did we shed our fins and lose 
our gills and leave the fish behind ? 

But here we were at the bottom of the sea to work 
and not to ask questions. Pray grunted again indicating 
the passing of time. Around me the photosphere was 
littered with the results of our recording expedition, 
yet there was more and more to be seen. Drawing 
nearer to the giant palmate we were both attracted to a 
mixture of colours smeared around the bulbous trunk 
of the gold-sheathed creation. Clearly defined was a 
patch of olive green. The work of racketeer polyps. 
They had invaded this structure built up by the hard 
work of others, muscled in, and made themselves at 

273 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

home. The result was a blotch of contrasting colour, 
interesting to study along with the invaders who most 
likely were partial to a diet of some minute sea-life 
the colour of olives, and were green because of a 
stomach full of them. 

Soon we perceived that these patches^ were com- 
mon. They were everywhere about us, adding 
greatly to the troubles of tropical fish who tried to 
change their colours to match their surroundings as 
they swam inquisitively by. It looked to us as though 
Nature had gone quite mad, yet all was toned into 
perfect harmony in this watery world of wonders. 

I wondered if any artist could faithfully capture the 
whole sweep and key to such a riot of colours, such 
kaleidoscopic effects, all shifting in the changing lights ? 

Suddenly it was as though some unseen hand were 
ringing down the curtain on the gorgeous undersea 
setting. An ominous drab cloud was blotting out the 
picture. I glanced upward. Above my chamber the 
transparent water no longer glowed with the ambient 
pale green light, shot through with effulgent sunshine. 
It was getting dark. The next instant I had forgotten 
corals, beauty, colour, everything below, and was 
scurrying up the flexible tube with the records we had 
made. 

Gaining the deck of the Jules Verne I saw that lowering 
black storm-clouds darkened the sky and hung like a 
pall over the sea and the islands. The atmosphere was 

2 74 



EXPLORING THE CORAL JUNGLES 

heavy and oppressive. The sea was like black oil with 
the breaking surf on the cays and reefs looming in 
patches of white through the semi-darkness. An hour 
or so earlier the sea had appeared a smiling, glorious 
expanse of liquid sapphire. But now it was ugly and 
threatening, with sinister power, to lash itself into fury. 
And the reefs below! With their outjutting masses, 
they were like crouching monsters, stretching sharp 
talons upward, ready to grasp us and drag us down to 
destruction. 

Working quickly we raised the tube and photosphere 
until it was completely housed within the Jules Verne, 
and found our way out of the coral pocket and into 
the anchorage in the centre of the menacing reefs. 
Here we must stay, for before we could find a safe 
passage out of the labyrinth the gale would be upon us. 
We were trapped. 

The fleet must ride out the storm in the centre of the 
reef area. I shouted orders rapidly as the men worked 
like demons to get out all possible moorings. Our 
heaviest anchors were dropped, our heaviest hawsers 
made fast, and everything movable on deck and inside 
was lashed down. 

This turn in events called for a quick shift in my plan 
of action. If we could not work in the sea we could 
work ashore. Our priceless records were quickly col- 
lected and wrapped in some waterproof material. 
Some of the crew rapidly stripped the Rose Island camp 

2 75 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

of Mr. Pray's belongings. There he had prepared to do 
some of his taxidermy. We didn't finish a minute too 
soon. Just as the last boatload was transferred to the 
flagship in the open sea, the inky-black clouds which 
had been hanging like a canopy over our heads, opened 
up and spilled out an ocean of rain. 

Instantly our vessels, the nearby islands, everything, 
was blotted out. But there was one consolation. My 
fleet was safely moored with a good crew aboard, and 
as I headed with my working staff to our comfortable 
laboratory at Nassau, I knew that we were not in for 
a hurricane. Of that I felt certain. I had been through 
too many of them not to know the symptoms. What 
we were in for, judging from the direction and indica- 
tion of the storm, was a period of winds and wetness 
that would last for at least a week. 



276 



Chapter XVII 



WET WINDS 



AS expected, with each dawn came more rain. 
However, we had plenty to do. There was the 
pile of unanswered mail and small things that became 
important, such as getting a haircut. 

Setting the main stage for action to combat the wet 
spell, taxidermy instead of film business now prevailed 
in the Nassau laboratory. Moulding plaster by the ton 
had been moved in. Selected native help stood by 
with mouths agape in amazement while Pray opened 
up his coffin-like boxes, laying out a profusion of 
cutlery — long sharp scalpels, knives of all shapes and 
sizes, pincers and scissors of various designs, an endless 
assortment of glittering surgical instruments. Resting 
on the operating-table were tropical beauties of fish- 
life waiting to be offered up as a sacrifice to science. 
Meantime, Pray's assistant was sponging the specimens 
with a solution of alum. 

Before the arrival of our taxidermist in Nassau I had 
arranged to keep him steadily supplied with all the fish 
specimens he could wish for from the tiniest reef 
butterfly-fish to huge sharks thirteen feet long. Now 

277 



WET WINDS 

during the rainy spell, this scientific fishing could go 
on smoothly. Fresh live specimens just up from the 
deep were needed for the seven fish groups now 
clearly defined after our unique undersea observa- 
tions. 

As a scientific artist Pray took great pleasure in com- 
piling his field notes and colour charts, but so glowing 
and vivid were some of the fish brought in they almost 
defied reproduction. But Pray would fondle them, 
cast them in true-to-life moulds and, missing no details, 
finally lay them down. Now a new discovery was made 
— Pray's art in cooking. His talents were unlimited, it 
seemed. With his keen scalpel he would lance open 
the back of each scientifically-recorded fish and produce 
a fillet, a morsel that was never to be washed or touched 
by human hands, not even his own. This was his 
system, and moreover, his method of cooking the fish 
was to tie the fillets in a linen bag and boil them like a 
pudding. The kind of fish involved meant nothing 
to him. Be it gorgeous or sinister to look upon, a fillet 
was just a fillet. Whether soap-fish, goat-fish, or angel- 
fish, they all went into the bag. However, the results 
were usually delicious. 

Sitting down to dinner each night, with the rain 
beating a tattoo on the roof and dripping from the 
eaves, we would ask, "And what sort offish is this, 
Pray tell." And Pray, like an oracle, would ponder 
awhile over the fillet in question and tell. To us they 

279 



HE OCEAN CURRENT 

INDS THE BRANCHES OF THE UNDERSEA CORAL TREES 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

all looked alike, though my keen olfactory sense 
warned me to be cautious. 

Gradually we learned that Pray was a dietetic expert, 
well versed in his vitamins and calories. As doctors 
discuss their beautiful operations at the dinner-table, 
so Pray would enlarge on the effects of food on the 
human system. 

Accustomed to getting at the inside of matters in his 
art of taxidermy, he acknowledged no privacy in his 
discussion of all things, from the universe to the atom. 
The study of foodstuffs was his hobby, and through 
various channels and ramifications he would usually 
conclude with the benefits to be derived from what he 
termed " roughage" to top off a meal. Backing up his 
statement, he would finish a hearty repast by slowly 
and systematically consuming a generous slab of raw 
cabbage. That there were benefits in this, he was 
positive. 

With sleep or without it, Pray worked like a Trojan. 
The two hundredth cast was eventually completed. 
Pray's business was prospering, and we turned our 
minds to what he required for his great shark group. 
Five huge man-eaters were to appear in their lair in the 
coral reefs, and the entire group was to measure some 
forty-five feet across. The sharks must appear as in 
life, and to cast them in their various positions for the 
group, their bodies must be moulded while still fresh 
and pliable. This master group alone was a big order, 

280 



WET WINDS 

requiring both strength and skill, not only in the work 
of casting the bulky man-eaters but in the capturing of 
the specimens and bringing them in alive. 

Each morning, wet and windy, and without visible 
sunrise, meant the start of a long day in the open 
wave-tossed sea. In a stout motor-boat with my black 
crew beside me I would head for the turbulent reef area, 
searching through rain and spray to see if the fleet was 
still riding safely. The stormy routine included a round 
of inspection and the leaving of food and water supplies 
for the fleet. It was the same with each of the three 
beach camps, with the added thrills of landing supplies 
of lumber and materials on the shores of the islands 
through the surf. Taking time by the forelock, I was 
preparing to build the huge packing-cases that would 
house the big coral specimens for their long trip to 
Chicago. I thought out the size of the boxes to be 
made, and planned ways to pack the contents securely, 
providing a bed of comfort for our precious corals 
in these boxes that would be as large as an ordinary 
bedroom and made of the heaviest planking and 
timbers. 

After each day in the open our return trips through 
the cuts and channels were always exciting, for we 
never failed to bring home some fighting demons, 
sharks or other large specimens. 

One evening in the bay at Rose Island, we har- 
pooned a huge ray which gave us a royal battle. The 

281 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

landing of this bat-like creature resulted in a curious 
experience. Suddenly the long line slackened, and 
peering over the side of the boat through the crystal 
clear water, we could see the ray circling about frantic- 
ally, trying to hide in a hole beneath a coral ledge too 
small to receive it. 

"It's looking for a place to die," muttered one of the 
natives. 

There is something human about the face of a ray, 
and when we got it on deck this one seemed to be 
trying to say something — trying to utter some articulate 
words. With frightened eyes, its expression was almost 
pathetic. Three hours later I felt somewhat conscience- 
stricken when I realized that slowly, through the period 
of an hour or so, while seemingly lifeless, the ray had 
given birth to three perfect young ones. At first they 
were strange-looking objects, each tightly rolled up 
like a napkin in a ring, but presently they unfolded and 
revealed themselves as perfectly formed miniatures of 
their mother. 

It was dark when we arrived at the laboratory and 
by the light of a lantern I showed the catch to Pray who 
planned to make casts of the whole ray family the first 
thing in the morning. 

Then came the dawn of another blustery day and by 
seven o'clock I was ready with my crew to put out to 
sea. Pray had already finished the work of casting the 
rays, and just as I was leaving I saw him dangling his 

282 



WET WINDS 

scalpel over the back of the mother ray with the zest 
of a surgeon about to perform an operation. 

" Surely you're not going to eat that thing ?" I asked 
as I made my exit, with a glance back at Pray who 
peered over his glasses, grinning like a Cheshire cat. 

That day the going was rough. The rain stopped, 
but still threatened as the wind increased. From time 
to time the hot sun broke through and a steaming heat 
hung over us like a blanket that couldn't be thrown off, 
and, to make matters worse, while landing in the surf 
I had broken my only thermos bottle. Though parched 
with thirst, I still couldn't bring myself to drink from 
the metal container the native boys were using. As the 
day advanced it became hotter and hotter, until we 
seemed to bake. The black boys actually looked green 
at times. But the camp work continued and the piles 
of timber were hauled through the surf and stored 
above the high-tide line. Among the supplies were 
boatloads of sponge clippings, padding for the fragile 
corals; to keep them from blowing away, they were 
stored in our working tents. The sponge seemed quite 
harmless, but the handling of it spread an itch, adding 
new stings to our skins already tattooed with the 
marks of sandflies and mosquito bites. 

To keep the boys working I had to use strategy; 
my bag of tricks was almost empty when I found I held 
magic in my trusty portable cine-camera, which was 
usually strapped to my wrist. As long as the hum of 

283 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

the mechanism was heard by the men they were 
satisfied, even anxious to go on. They were not mere 
working men. They were all movie actors. I did film 
a good part of the action, but sometimes, I confess, 
the camera went on without a film in it. 

This particular day I was actually filming some im- 
portant scenes, when the camera stopped clicking. The 
men slowed down stupidly, slapping at their legs and 
bodies, for now they had time to think of the torturing 
bites of the insects, and other distractions. 

That camera would have to be fixed; the film must 
have buckled, I thought, and if so would take but a few 
seconds to adjust, but I must have a dark-room to work 
in. Unfortunately there was no dark-room on the 
desolate, deserted island whose only regular inhabitants, 
at this time of the year, were wild pigs and land-crabs. 
Looking about the camp, I spied one of Pray's long grey 
packing-boxes that had once held his taxidermy gadgets. 
The box had been carefully made at the Field Museum 
and was almost airtight when its hinged top was shut 
down. There was my dark-room made to order. I 
didn't relish the idea of getting inside such a coffin-like 
hot-box, but there was no other way out but to go in. 

To make sure there would be no light when I opened 
up the camera exposing the film, I called for a heavy 
tarpaulin to be used as an extra covering. I huddled 
inside, with the camera close under my face and chest, 
and was squeezed down as the lid was closed and the 

284 



WET WINDS 

hasp snapped shut. In this position I could scarcely 
move a muscle except for the manipulation of my 
hands. 

Outside my crew of black giants were scampering 
about like mad, not only throwing the heavy tarpaulin 
over my dark-room, but tucking it all about the box 
in the sand. Then to make sure that no wandering 
sunbeam should join me, they sat down on top of the 
box! 

I opened the camera and my fingers soon told me 
that the film had not buckled. What was the trouble ? 
The temperature inside of the box was even worse than 
I had expected. Sweat ran off me in streams, filling 
my eyes. I fumbled with the camera, shook it, and 
fiddled with every movable part. It was the shutter 
that was stuck. A grain of sand might be holding it. 
A few minutes more and I felt sure I could fix it, yet I 
seemed to be carrying the whole weight of the huddle 
of bodies above me as I worked on in the dark. What 
were those black devils yelling about? I tried to catch 
the meaning of their jumble of words. Now they were 
laughing in fiendish glee. A queer idea flashed through 
my mind. What if they did not respond to my signal 
for release? This could happen. Hadn't I damned them 
to Hades a hundred times, driven them like a slave 
driver, and, in emergencies, treated diem like dogs, 
though I loved them all for the children they were by 
nature ! Suppose, by some queer twist in their make-up, 

285 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

they turned on me now. Quite innocently they could 
sit there for a few minutes longer which might mean 
for me, good-bye. But the camera was humming. 
The shutter was clear. I was through, and I rapped out 
my signal for release. 

"Comin' out, Boss," came the muffled reply. 
Throwing open the lid they helped me out, and we 
went on as before. 

At the close of that long hot day I got home weary, 
but elated at the capture of a big bull shark to com- 
plete our group of man-eaters. Thirst had been for- 
gotten, but now it returned with a vengeance along 
with a ravenous appetite — the reward of labour. By 
nine o'clock, after a shower and a change, and the 
bracing effects of a stiff whisky and soda, I was ready 
for dinner and quite happy. Taking a peep at the wee 
"Captain" who had heeded the sandman and was now 
sound asleep, I sat down with my wife and Pray, our 
usual family group. Without giving much thought to 
what I ate, I was laughingly relating the happenings of 
the day, when slowly my keen sense of smell began its 
nefarious work. 

"What kind offish am I eating?" I requested of Pray, 
while dark suspicion hung like a cloud over the sun- 
shine of the moment. 

"Why — that's ray," said Pray, looking as blandly 
innocent and smiling as he had that morning when I 
left him, scalpel in hand. 

286 



WET WINDS 

Dinner was over, for me. 

The wet winds at last grew weary and quit. The sun 
shone brilliantly and a dead calm hung over land and 
sea. 

During the period I had been compelled to abandon 
my underwater work, I had been making plans for the 
lifting of the huge coral trees from their home on the 
ocean's floor. In some cases the task would not be so 
very difficult, but it would certainly take something 
more than persuasion to dislodge that big golden pal- 
mate which blocked the roadway in the undersea glade. 

My two best diving boys, Ward and Cinderella, were 
preening themselves with pride at being selected to 
help with the work down in the spooky shadows of the 
coral forest. Ward was the diver who almost won a 
full dress-suit from me once for fighting a shark, and 
Cinderella had had a long string of hair-raising adven- 
tures with me. 

After a few hours' work the Jules Verne was again 
floating over the top of the forest. From the photo- 
sphere below I guided the equipment through the 
dangerous passages until we reached the end of the 
glade and again stopped by the huge yellow palmate 
with its bulbous trunk and mottled patches of colour. 

I marvelled at the tranquillity below. The storm we 
had experienced above meant nothing in these un- 
touched depths. To sit motionless and succumb to its 
peculiar fascination would have been perfect bliss, but 

287 



WET WINDS 

instead I began at once to consider how this coral tree, 
which I had set my heart upon, might be lifted. 

Really, the only place we could get hold of it was 
around the trunk. It would have to be grasped as if it 
were a bouquet of roses, as the spreading branches of 
the massive coral were as brittle as pipe stems. 

I called for Cinderella to come down into the chamber 
with me, and outlined to him the unique part he was 
to play in my scheme. In this odd business, odd measures 
must be resorted to. From the photosphere window 
Cinderella was able to look out and observe the coral, 
and listening intently, he grasped what it was that I 
wanted him to do. Then I sent his compact ebony 
bulk hustling back to the surface, and waited. 

Presently into my field of vision outside there came 
striding a grotesque black hobgoblin. It was Cinderella. 
Not only was he dolled up in his bubbling diving- 
helmet, but his legs were adorned in high rubber boots, 
his own idea, for protection against the stinging corals. 
While I measured and sketched inside the chamber, 
Cinderella was able to give me the relative height and 
spread of the tree. I was using him as a human yard- 
stick. When he held his arms as instructed, I got the 
slope of the branches. 

My plan was to construct a heavy wooden cradle 
around the base of the coral. Would we be able to 
break the tree away from its stony base? We could 
but try it. Just then I noticed two holes in the reef 

289 



had been making plans for lifting the huge coral trees , 
IYER IN THE SHADE OF AN OVERHANGING PALMATE 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

directly beneath the tree itself. Here was a stroke of 
luck! By exploding a light charge of dynamite in 
these openings and at the same time putting a lifting 
strain on the cradle, I figured I could not only dislodge 
the tree but obtain a slab of rock attached to it as well. 
The slab of bed rock would serve as a base for the speci- 
men when it was boxed. I had Cinderella probe the 
depths of these holes with a pole, and, having made all 
necessary sketches I took my men and hurried ashore in 
a motor-boat. 

On the hard coral beach at the Rose Island base I had 
a conference with my old reliable crew of blacks near 
the very spot where they had so recently sat upon me. 
With sketches and notes in hand I drew in the sand a 
life-sized picture of the lop-sided coral tree we had just 
left at the sea bottom, together with the cradle about 
the tree I wanted constructed. They understood what 
I wanted and why. 

To say that these men were jacks-of-all-trades would 
be slighting them. They were "aces." When I passed 
out hammers, saws, maules and spikes, and indicated 
the waiting piles of lumber, my men were carpenters, 
and good ones, skilled especially in the tricky work in 
which I had trained them for years. In an hour or so 
the huge contraption, that was to cradle the coral tree, 
was built. Then came the work of padding it with sponge 
clipping packed into sacks and lashed securely to the 
cradle. When it was ready for launching, these sacks 

290 



WET WINDS 

provided a nice soft fender for our coral specimen, 
protecting the trunk and the stout lower branches where 
I dared to hope for support. 

No bottle was broken in the launching ceremony, 
though a bottle might have helped, judging from the 
chorus of grunts and snorts from my straining and 
sweating crew. To rock this cradle from the sand to 
the sea was no easy matter. It was made out of heavy 
native pine, tremendously strong, with timbers some 
eighteen feet long projecting far beyond the cradle 
proper. To these outstretching arms we would attach 
our lifting tackle when the wooden form was closed 
around the tree. No gear would touch the fragile 
coral branches. 

A few more groans and suddenly the men lifted their 
burden clear of the sand and carried it into the sea. The 
next step was to get it out on the location and sub- 
merged. This was done in good tugboat fashion, and 
soon we were piling on sandbags and old chains, and 
our undersea cradle sank beneath the waves. 

Imagine the thoughts of the fish world below as this 
massive object came into view, and tumbling after it 
Ward and Cinderella, a pair of bubble-throwing 
creatures who landed on the bottom and went into 
action. As a matter of precaution they first chased away 
a big ugly rockfish who lived in the tree, along with a 
flock of black angelfish. Then they closed the cradle 
securely about the base of the coral, dancing with 

291 



4 



+ 



m 



WET WINDS 

excitement when they found that it fitted like a glove. 
We were watching diem with water glasses from the 
pontoons just above, and now we sent down the heavy 
cables and chains for the divers to fasten to each long 
stout arm of the cradle. 

With a grinding o( gears the hoisting started, but 
instead of the tree beginning to move up, the massive 
pontoons were drawn deeper and deeper down into the 
water. With each lift of an occasional swell we hoped 
that the coral would break off and land in our trap, 
but it would not budge even when the pontoons were 
drawn down until the decks were awash. The strain was 
terrific, but after a full hour of struggle, we were still 
with decks awash and the coral hadn't moved an inch. 
And to add to the discomfort, heavy clouds were 
piling up. There was every indication that a tropical 
squall was in store for us. No one could tell just what 
those clouds portended. If it was only rain, it didn't 
matter, but if a blow was in the squall, we were sunk. 

Then down came the deluge. At last I determined to 
use the dynamite though I had questioned the use of it 
up to now. No one could be certain just how the 
fragile coral would be affected by the concussion from 
the explosion. The charges I had prepared were minute, 
each no larger than the end of my thumb. I sent the 
diver down with these tiny cartridges and instructed 
him to insert them in the crevices under the ledge. 
This done, I threw over the switch, and instantly the 

293 



more gorgeous creation was spread out before me' 
)LDEN YELLOW PALMATE CORAL TREE 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

pontoons rose like monsters from the sea. There had 
been no shock at the surface, but our coral was free. 
That was sure. Swinging away from the tangle of 
reefs, we scudded with the squall toward the shore. 
Thoroughly drenched with a cold pin-shower of rain, 
we steadily hoisted our precious load up toward the 
surface. We could hardly wait to see it, but at last it 
was revealed — not the magnificent specimen we had 
hoped for, but merely a shattered mass — a pile of broken 
branches of the twelve-foot spread of beauty we had 
struggled so hard to wrest from the mighty deep. 

Standing on the pontoons with my now dejected 
crew looking not unlike so many drowned rats, there 
was just one man I .wanted to question, but I didn't. 
That was the stammering, stuttering diver who had 
placed the explosives. I knew he had gone down alone 
into those eerie depths as jumpy as a darky in a grave- 
yard at midnight. But whether he had put the dynamite 
in the tree or under the tree did not matter now. There 
were other stone trees in our undersea quarry. 

The bright sun was shining again and within an hour 
we were back in the glade, with the pontoons moored 
over another great specimen, and the Jules Verne close 
by, for I had made up my mind to be on the bottom 
and personally supervise the ceremonies of lifting this 
tree. 

Scrambling down into the tube, I moved in closer 
and, to my delight, a more gorgeous creation was 

294 



WET WINDS 



spread out before me than the one we had just blown 
up. Gnarled and twisted like a wind-blasted pine on a 
mountainside, this coral masterpiece clung to the base 
and side of the reef, the spread of its branches fully 
thirteen feet across. To add to its oddities, a family of 
big Nassau groupers lived under it. This tree was their 
castle, and from the looks of the fish as they rolled their 
big eyes at me as I sat busily making records, I could 
see that they were ready to fight to defend it, if neces- 
sary. Flashing on a pattern of stripes like a tiger one big 
grouper advanced toward me. In an instant he was 
changed, the stripes were gone and the whole body was 
as colourless as the white floor of the ocean. He must 
have been the grandfather of the lot for he turned and 
chased back the rest of the family, and looking very 
human about it, came back to give me some very dirty 
looks. But something more was to ruffle his serenity. 
Cinderella arrived in his seven-league boots. This was 
too much for the grouper. He dashed into a hole in 
the reef and turned almost black in the shadows, 
invisible except for a pair of red eyes that pierced the 
darkness. 

No cradle was needed for this tree-lifting job. We 
could grab hold of this one through the top of its 
branches. Catching my signals, Ward and Cinderella 
were carefully guiding the one great rope-sling to the 
point I had estimated as the centre of gravity. Ward 
was on top of the tree and Cinderella under it — strange 

295 



mm 






W: n - 




WET WINDS 

looking figures in the setting — the sling was made fast, 
and I flashed the sign to go ahead with the hauling. 
This was the big moment. Would our plan succeed? 

Powdery puffs in the sea-bed showed that the roots 
were giving away. The tree started upward. Cinderella 
rushed under to steady it. This was too much for the 
red-eyed grouper. We were carrying off his house and 
grounds. This meant fight. 

Circling about the trunk of the tree, he took a bite 
at Cinderella and was so pleased with himself that he 
forgot to turn off his dark colours. The last I saw of 
him— just before I dashed up the tube to the surface — 
he was still dark and ugly, ploughing through a cloud 
of white fluid dust, probably rounding up his family 
to start out and look for a new home. 

Up from the depths, my arrival on deck was greeted 
with war whoops that seemed to be coming from a 
band of wild Indians. All over the pontoons my dusky 
crew were doing a dance. The reason was evident. 
Hauled up close beneath the pontoon was the great 
coral tree, and absolutely intact. Not a twig of its 
twisted magnificence was missing. So far so good, but 
it still was a long way from Chicago. To get this tree 
out of the sea was the next problem. It weighed several 
tons. Soon we had towed it to the beach at Rose 
Island, the place I had selected to land it — if we could. 

Once on the beach, no whistle was needed to remind 
my crew it was lunch time. After a morning of weird 

297 



l One big grouper advaneed toward me" 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

ups and downs, I knew they were ravenous, and they 
wreaked their vengeance on cans of bully beef and other 
delicacies. At times I thought they would devour 
corned beef, cans and all. Loaves of bread vanished like 
snowflakes. No time was wasted. Finally they slowed 
down, took a long breath, and awaited the serving of 
their amber brew. These men were true Britishers, 
born under the flag, and addicted to the stimulating 
effects of tea. Their cup of hot tea was vital to their 
well-being and happiness. 

And now for dessert I passed around saws and 
hammers, and they all became carpenters. What we 
were making we hoped later to be the bottom of the 
huge packing-case that would carry our big coral tree 
to its new home in the Field Museum. Our specimen 
was still suspended — not in mid-air but mid-water — 
just below the pontoons, but with gentle urging we soon 
got the wobbling tree on our immense landing plat- 
form and started the movement to pull it ashore. 
What could we tie to for support? Up on the sandy 
bluff were little palmetto-trees. They didn't mean a 
thing to us. There was nothing to fasten to, so hastily 
we dug into the hillside and located a mass of rock for 
our blocks and tackle. Then came the real tug-of-war. 

Up to this point it had been possible to drag the huge 
platform, loaded with coral, over the hard sand bottom 
of the bay, but now as we neared the shoreline, with the 
weight increasing as the coral emerged from the water, 

298 



WET WINDS 

we found we could not move it until we laid tracks and 
put rollers under the timbers of the platform. The men 
worked like demons. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the 
truly magnificent specimen rose higher and higher above 
the level of the sea. First at the tips, and then for the 
entire length of the branches, the coral turned white. 
The swarm of polyps were leaving it. The sea was as 
smooth as a millpond and I was inwardly praying 
that the calm would hold. A sudden squall and a 
tumble of waves would play havoc with our prize that 
now wobbled uncertainly as though it would topple 
over from our platform that held it. 

The tide was rising just about as rapidly as our speci- 
men was emerging from the sea, so despite our frantic 
efforts we seemed to gain nothing. To add to my con- 
cern, the thing I dreaded was slowly happening. A 
breeze had sprung up. The wind was rapidly increasing 
and each succeeding wave threatened to topple our 
three-ton tree from its resting-place, smashing the 
branches and ending our weary day with disaster. 

Something would have to be done and done quickly 
if the coral were to be preserved intact. That some- 
thing, I decided, was to lift the tree from its platform, 
level and repair its uneven base and fix it back in place, 
immovable. Dropping the lines, the men rushed to do 
my bidding, raising shears of twenty-five foot booms 
after bolting a crossbar at their tops and rurining guy- 
ropes from this to the top of the bluff. 

299 




> 




x 

i lift 



WET WINDS 

With a four-ton chain-hoist attached to the cross- 
head, we lifted the coral tree and I examined its base. 
Immediately I saw what was the trouble. Several of 
the chunks of stone in the roots were loose. Quickly 
these were extracted and with an axe I began trimming 
the hard limestone roots, or what appeared to be roots. 
It was a risky business. At each blow the white stone 
branches above me vibrated with a high-pitched note 
that sent shivers up my spine. But at last the roots 
were evened off. The coral was gently lowered once 
more to the platform, and roughly boxed about the 
base. We poured in concrete, and the tree had a founda- 
tion which could be securely bolted and lashed to the 
timbers. 

The rest was comparatively easy. Triumphantly we 
hauled it above high-water mark where it was to 
remain until the sun, air and water had removed all 
traces of animal matter from it. 

Our experiences with the first two coral trees served 
us well. We landed the third great tree, the largest 
prize of the lot, with no great difficulty. This tree stood 
nearly six feet tall and measured fourteen by sixteen 
feet across its branches. 

The worst was over. Compared to what we had been 
through, the rest of the work was almost child's play. 
Boat load after boat load was lifted from the depths 
and stored ashore to be cleaned and bleached, some- 
times with the use of chemicals. Every specimen of 

301 



'Triumphantly we hauled it above high-uatcrmark 

HE LARGEST SPECIMEN OF CORAL EVER TAKEN FROM THE SEA 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

foliage and creature in Neptune's garden which we had 
not already captured, was garnered and brought to the 
beach; even quantities of sand from the sea-bed, for we 
had recorded its worm mounds and ripples and these 
too were to be reproduced. Soon there was a veritable 
fairyland on the beach, a strangely beautiful garden of 
corals, now cleansed and bleached to snowy whiteness. 
From dawn to dark the air was alive with the sounds of 
hammering and sawing, as the men worked to build 
the great boxes and crates for our prizes. Then sud- 
denly I realized there must be a limit to the size of our 
cases as they were to travel by rail before they got to 
Chicago. 

I was in a quandary, until I learned that the extreme 
width for railroad travel was nine feet ten inches. 
There was nothing to do with our largest coral but 
systematically to reduce it to freightage proportions. 
It seemed too bad to have to break off its branches even 
though they could be replaced in the manner a dentist 
pivots a tooth, but the operation was performed; and 
into its packing-case went our trimmed-down coral 
together with the trimmings. Our shipment was 
ready. Fifteen immense cases. There were no scales on 
the beach but I estimated the weight of our precious 
collection at at least twenty-five tons. 

Day by day the calendar indicated the possibility of 
a hurricane. In fact, one had already started. It was on 
its way up from the Caribbean, though apparently not 

302 



WET WINDS 

headed in our direction. If a hurricane should pounce 
upon us with our bulky cargo still on the beach, die 
results would be too awful to contemplate. Our whole 
collection would be tossed along the shore and broken 
into bits. Then nothing could ever put our coral 
together again. 

There was just one practical way to get our load off 
the sands, and that was, to persuade the steamship 
company officials to send up one of their great barges 
with its enormous boom and crane to pick the boxes 
off the beach. 

I knew the steamship company would hesitate to 
allow any of their vessels to negotiate the reef area. 
In the event of a real storm it would be a trap for their 
equipment as it had been for my fleet. Down to Nassau 
I rushed, and finally at their own price, they agreed to 
do the work. 

It was a happy day for me when the huge crane 
appeared on the horizon and was towed in and moored 
alongside the Rose Island base. There was not a ripple 
on the sea — a perfect day for the transfer of the cases 
of coral — as the great boom swung out and took the 
first one, to land it safely on the deck of the barge. 
Then the wire slings were passed around the case 
holding our big thirteen-foot twisted coral tree, the 
one that had given us so much trouble to land through 
the surf, with its crumbling base. I watched anxiously 
the transfer of this tremendously large case, saw it go 

303 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

high in the air, then the boom swung over the deck 
of the barge and the box began to descend. But I 
didn't like die casual manner of the man at the controls. 
I wondered if he realized he was handling three tons 
of something as breakable as priceless cut glass. I held 
my breath as it started down — twenty feet from the 

deck — ten feet — seven feet Then came a whirr 

of the gear on the winches and a sickening thud. Down 
on its end bumped the box on the deck. I yelled. I 
cut loose a flow of seafaring language. It must have been 
awful. A moment before the whole beach as. far as we 
could see had been carpeted with millions of land crabs 
migrating to the water. Now they had reversed and 
were scuttling away, pop-eyed and horrified, for the 
hills. 

There was no remedy for the fall of the box. I 
groaned to think of the contents, perhaps now a broken 
and shattered mass of limestone. Finally I made my 
way out to the deck of the barge and forced myself to look 
into the broken end of the case, and believe it or not, 
a miracle had happened — not a branch of the tree had 
been broken. Our gloom was now changed to a scene 
of happiness. The saving of the tree had no doubt 
been the reward for our careful packing, and the 
method of securing this fragile specimen. 

Thereafter each one of our fifteen big cases was 
handled as though it were filled with good fresh 
eggs. They were soon aboard, and off through the 

304 



WET WINDS 

reefs to Nassau for transfer to the little freight steamer, 
Bahamian, which would take our coral cargo on the 
next leg of its journey to Jacksonville, Florida. 

That trip across the gulf was the last long stretch I had 
left to worry about. After that our specimens might be 
wrecked, but not sunk. 

At daybreak we started with the loading of the 
Bahamian. Dozens of crates and small cases were to go 
from the laboratory and elsewhere, in addition to the 
huge cases to be handled by the barge and crane. Then 
came the matter of securing the lot to prevent them 
from shifting with the roll of the vessel. Never was any 
shipment more carefully secured than this one. We 
hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. 

It was noon before I was satisfied that all was well. 
The boat was to sail within an hour. But when I 
dashed up to the office of the U.S. consul with my 
invoices and bills of lading, I found that I was up 
against a stone wall. It was a public half-holiday and 
religiously observed in these balmy Bahamas. The 
consul himself was absent and his aide refused to attach 
the signature and seal of the government for free entry, 
although the contents of each box was fully enumerated 
and set forth, and its scientific purpose and destination 
well known even to the extent of an official letter from 
a director of the Field Museum to the consul himself, 
which I had personally delivered. This particular vice- 
consul now took exception to it all and began to 

305 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

question the commercial value of coral in general and 
sea-fans in particular. Sea-fans could be sold in the 
United States, he said. The steamer's whistle was now 
blowing. From the consul's window I could see the 
black smoke, rolling from its funnels along the water 
front just a block away. Then came a complaint about 
the form in which my papers were drawn up. They 
would have to be changed. I was willing to do any- 
thing to satisfy him, and dashed out to hail a carriage or 
some moving vehicle. It was a holiday. The streets 
were quiet and empty. Then thundering up the street 
came a rickety old truck which I stopped, and jumped 
into the front seat with the driver. I told him to drive, 
and he took me at my word, burning up the road along 
Bay Street to the laboratory. Pray had sailed some days 
before, but my wife was there and she helped me to 
re-type the papers. Back to the consul's office I took 
them, but my Nemesis still found fault. 

The steamer was blowing again, and I was about to 
blow up myself and let it sail without the papers, when 
I thought of something else. Here were the wet 
Bahamas. There was the dry U.S.A. Any shipment 
headed from here to Uncle Sam was under suspicion. 
What more delightful trick could be played than to 
ship a whole boatload of wet goods marked "Coral 
Specimens, Handle with Care." To let die ship go 
without those proper papers would be not only to 
risk disaster but to ask for it. Should the Bahamian be 

306 



THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN— A NATIVE C 
'DOFFS HIS HAT" AS HE SALUTES "CAPTAIN" S^i 



7 

/ 






\ 










\ 




TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

boarded for inspection on the high seas, I could see 
those revenue officers with their trusty axes at work 
on my cases, crashing through the corals while looking 
for hidden contraband. If disappointed in one case 
they would look for it in another, then another. After 
they had finished they might get satisfaction, but the 
museum would not. 

So I rushed out to find the owner of the vessel, a 
man of prominence in the city, and persuaded him to 
come with me to the consul's office and add his oath 
to mine that everything was in order. He gladly did 
so, and pled my case with all his eloquence, but that 
only seemed to make matters worse. Finally I set out 
on the trail of the consul himself. I found him, and 
only then were all objections overruled. I got my 
papers, and finally thrust them into the hands of the 
good-natured captain of the Bahamian who had waited 
four hours to get them. Never was I more relieved than 
when I stood on the dock and saw the steamer move out. 

But even then my relief was mingled with a memory 
of a weak link in my chain. The cargo of treasures was 
not insured. I had made valiant efforts to cover it 
adequately. Local agents were willing enough to write 
a policy but investigation revealed that the little steamer, 
which had teen a crack yacht in England when Queen 
Victoria was young, had no rating whatsoever at 
Lloyds'. No company would risk a shilling that its 
cargo would ever land. 

308 



WET WINDS 

With this thought in mind, I saw the Bahamian 
steam out of the harbour and into die open sea. 

That night the wind whistled an unpleasant tune, 
soughing through the palm-trees and whining through 
the screening of the laboratory living-quarters. Before 
retiring I had checked time and charts and knew the 
little Bahamian would soon be entering the reaches of 
the Gulf Stream. But sleep was fitful, and responding 
to my troubled dreams, twice I jumped out of bed 
yelling orders to my crew about reefs, ropes and 
riggings. I began to realize that my nerves were wound 
up too tight. My self-appointed task of delivering the 
goods according to schedule had put me on edge and 
there was just one place to go where rest was sure, and 
that's just where I was going. 

With the bright sunrise next morning I was up with 
my new plan of action, not only for myself but for my 
family and my crew. We were going on a picnic — 
a picnic under the sea. There was plenty of time for 
this submarine excursion before the steamer would 
come to take us all back to New York. 

So we answered the call of the sea, packed up our 
lunch, so to speak, which amounted to a truck-load of 
supplies, and soon the caressing influence of the deep 
had enfolded us. We were sailing under sealed orders 
or no orders at all, for I had set out to drift and go 
nowhere in particular. It was delightful to know that 
we could actually do this very thing, and rest in a 

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WET WINDS 

world of liquid loveliness. Sometimes the Jules Verne 
above was at anchor, but most of the time we were 
simply cruising along through the hills and valleys, 
over submarine meadows, through shadowed woods, 
sometimes in moonlight, only to emerge again in the 
lovely gardens of the sea. 

In our well-ventilated studio we were as comfortable 
as the fish seemed to be outside our window. Of course, 
we were dry in our cosy chamber, breathing the normal 
air from above, as it rushed down our ventilator and 
circulated freely. Outside was water-pressure, crushing 
and menacing. Fathoms of ocean reached up above us, 
but inside the pressure was normal, the same as that 
enjoyed on the decks above by my native crew, now 
laughing and singing. I could hear them through my 
telephone receiver. They were on vacation. I had 
supplied them with everything they wanted, cartons 
of cigarettes, plug tobacco for their pipes, plenty of 
sweet stuff, including a tower of canned peaches, and 
also something in particular I had denied them on duty 
— an abundance of rock salt for salting down the fish 
that they captured. 

My troubles had melted away. Below we were 
enveloped in a world of our own. I had learned to 
appreciate the absolute privacy of my undersea studio 
on my honeymoon. Now I could further enjoy it with 
my increasing undersea family, for now, in addition 
to my wife and baby, we had the youngster's pet cat. 

3ii 



4 s comfortable as the fish seemed to be outside our window" 
CORAL HEAD, WAVING SEA-PLUMES AND PURPLE GORGONIAS 






f 



WET WINDS 

The deep-sea kitten was purring, delightfully content. 
The " Captain's' ' flaxen head bobbed about in die great 
studio window where she held forth on her big soft 
pillow; my wife was leisurely sketching and, as usual, 
I was occasionally responding to the urge to photo- 
graph. My camera was catmint to the kitten and 
equally fascinating to the baby. Fingers and paws were 
constantly poking into its lens and fittings. My focus 
and diaphragm adjustment meant nothing to them. 
How r ever, this was everybody's picnic, and even the 
fish outside seemed to put on an extra effort to give us 
a show. 

We proceeded slowly, watching the fun in the fishy 
arena. Digging for worms was a popular pastime. 
There was a radiant turbot standing on his head with 
his tail straight up and whirling his fins like propellers, 
•rooting into the sandy bottom. A hog-fish ploughed 
with his swine-like snout, blowing up the domestic 
happiness of wormland in the mud. Hundreds of goat- 
fish grazed peacefully near, busily digging for worms. 
Two long white feelers adorn the chin of the goatfish, 
and with these he probes quickly and often. When a 
"strike" or the prospect of one is touched by his probe 
he digs in frantically to get his worm — and from the 
satisfied expression that invariably follows, he always 
gets his meal. 

And right under our window, picking a course 
between starfish and sea cucumbers, came the mighty 

3i3 



"Watching the fun in the fishy arena' 

GOLDEN GRUNTS AND YELLOW-TAILED GOATFISH 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

King-conch and the members of his family. Here my 
wife dropped her brushes and palette to remark, "Here 
come the elephants. " And sure enough they did appear 
like a parade of pachyderms, halting and clumsy. 
With a ponderous importance they picked their way 
over the white marl sea-floor. Dancing along in the 
column of conchs came a frisky lieutenant, but he 
couldn't fool us, not from our sea-floor view. It was the 
shell of a conch, but it housed an invading soldier-crab. 
Thousands of true conchs swarmed over the sea-bed 
around us. As food they rate high with the natives of 
the islands. Cameos are cut from the lips of their shells, 
and sometimes they bear precious pink pearls. There 
are benefits and beauty in this shell-fish, so homely to 
look upon as it roams on the bed of the sea. 

Presently we found ourselves in a darkened valley 
of the sea, with a shapeless bulk looming in the distance. 
Cautiously we drew nearer, then I realized what it was 
— a wreck! 

Here was real adventure ! To find the forgotten hulk 
of a long-lost ship in its watery grave! Now it bore 
little resemblance to its original fabric of wood and 
metal. Years beneath the sea had transformed it, 
coated it with lime, inches thick, and coral had started 
to grow along its ancient timbers. 

In this setting of grim tragedy, everything was 
sombre, bathed in a deep green light, though the wreck 
was a haven for millions offish that lived in and about it. 

314 



WET WINDS 

Slowly we drew near, wide-eyed with interest. Among 
the scintillating myriads of fish suddenly appeared a 
dozen big mackerel with their long lean jaws, trim 
bodies and bold cruel eyes. They were rounding up a 
great school of fish, driving them in herds with a 
peculiar movement until the whole mass seemed to be 
tied up into a knot. Then like flashing javelins the 
mackerel hurled themselves into the mad confusion, 
snapping right and left and gulping down their prey. 

Scarcely was this tragedy over when a company of 
big horse-eye jacks made their appearance on the scene, 
seeming more intent upon investigating us than in 
gorging themselves. Heading straight for our big 
studio window 7 , they looked inquiringly in, opening and 
closing their mouths the while as though talking about 
us. Then yawning and looking extremely bored, they 
turned and moved off in single file. 

Scarcely had the gossiping jacks gone their way, 
when out of the mysterious depths of the wreck an 
immense fish cruised forth. Like an ogre from a fairy 
tale emerging from his dismal castle, this ugly denizen 
of the deep turned and made straight for our window. 
Closer and closer came the prognathous bulk with queer 
staring eyes. It was the largest jewfish I have ever seen, 
and as big as a shark. Slowly its great mouth opened like 
a yawning chasm. And for once the young "Captain" 
drew back into the arms of her mother who smiled at 
this menace outside that could not harm the little 

'3*5 







J» ■* 




IP 



*** * 'til 



%k. 



WET WINDS 

explorer. The ogre had no designs on us and soon his 
hypnotic eyes were fixed on a school of fish that 
huddled together a few yards distant. Sidling up beside 
them the jcwfish singled out one for his victim. Slowly 
under the power of the mesmeric glare this one fish 
swung out from die group and moved about nervously, 
the ogling monster following its fleeting movements. 
Then die huge mouth opened and the victim passed 
into the awaiting chasm with no more concern than a 
person entering a subway. This performance was 
repeated until apparently the correct quota had passed 
the turnstiles; then, blinking his eyes and barely moving 
his ponderous tail, the lazy old jewfish sailed back into 
the shadows of the wreck. 

After a few more days of happy lazing of this sort 
my mind was relieved by a cable from Mr. Stanley 
Field, who had wired from Chicago that die entire 
collection, requiring two freight cars and a box car to 
carry it over the railway, had reached the museum in 
safety, and, I might add, widiin the budget. 

My cares of the expedition were over. Back we 
hustled to the harbour at Nassau where the Jules Verne 
was anchored securely. The pontoons and the smaller 
craft were all hauled ashore. The equipment and under- 
sea chamber were cleaned, oiled and stored away. The 
laboratory was closed, and with my family, I bade 
farewell to the Bahamas for a time as we boarded die 
steamer and headed for New York. 

3i7 



THE AUTHOR WITH HIS NATIVE DIVERS- 
WARD, JOE, BROWN, SKIN, JAMAICA AND CINDERELLA 



/ 



WET WINDS 

Again I caught that peculiar, intangible something 
in the atmosphere, and the leaden menace of the clouds 
that spoke of a hurricane as we reached the open sea. 
With no wind in particular, we encountered heavy seas 
all that day and the next. The third day through the 
wireless we heard that the hurricane had veered and was 
closing in on the section of the Bahamas we had just 
left. Wireless reports were meagre, but when we arrived 
in New York a full account of the disaster reached us. 

The storm had struck. A seething blast had swept 
the reefs and islands upon which we had worked. 
Never in its history had Nassau experienced such a 
hurricane. Scarcely a building escaped serious damage 
from the fury of the storm. The government house 
was unroofed and partially destroyed. The living- 
quarters above our laboratory were blown completely 
away. Twenty dead were counted in the vicinity of 
Nassau. There were sixty hours of terrible suspense 
as the storm passed once, made a hairpin curve and 
returned with renewed fury. 

The little freight steamer, the Bahamian, that had 
successfully carried our corals was lost for four days 
in the gale that tossed it about like a cork. And a 
similar ship which had served us all the summer, carry- 
ing our mail and supplies to and from Florida, went 
down in the hurricane, a total loss. 

Nassau has had no hurricane since that final blast 
which came as the end of a cycle of storms. 

3i9 



ROCKED IN THE CRADLE OF THE DEEP 



TWENTY YEARS UNDER THE SEA 

The fates had decreed that we should miss the last 
of the hurricanes. We were back on bustling Broadway 
again, back to our routine of hotel life. It all seemed 
unreal, the Bahamas a million miles away. I could 
order a Filet de sole with little chance of getting a 
Filet de ray. It was a change to look out of our window 
into a sea of faces that were not those of fish, even 
though the swarm of humanity occupying the towering 
buildings about us reminded me of the activity of the 
coral polyps and their creations. 

We were caught up happily in the life of the city. 
Yet the thrill of the great silence of the deep and the 
whispered songof the siren were ever luring us back to 
our happy hunting-ground — the world of treasures at 
the bottom of the sea. 



320